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Game of the Week: Monroe Area at Chestatee
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Chestatee running back A.J. Sijiye looks for extra yards in a game earlier this season. The War Eagles host Monroe Area tonight at War Eagle Stadium. - photo by Scott Rogers | The Times

Monroe Area at Chestatee

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: War Eagle Stadium, Gainesville

Coaches: Monroe Area, Matt Fligg; Chestatee, Stan Luttrell

Records: Monroe Area (8-0, 5-0 Region 8-AAAA); Chestatee (7-1, 5-0)

Key players: Monroe Area, QB/CB Stanton Truitt (5-10, 180 Jr.), QB/WR/CB Michael Gallup (6-1, 175 Jr.), LB D.J. Smith (Jr.). Chestatee, RB/CB Quan Clark (5-10, 188 Sr.), QB Jordan Degraff (6-0, 155 Sr.), TE/LB Baker McCormack (5-10, 180 Sr.).

Prediction: MONROE AREA. Though the Purple Hurricanes are ranked No. 6 in the state, they’ve only played one team this season with a winning record, emerging with a 21-17 win over Stephens County. This one should be close, but look for the Purple Hurricanes’ speed to make the difference in a high-scoring affair.

Week 11: High school football previews

Excitement is at a fever pitch around Chestatee High School this week. Tonight’s game might be the biggest in the history of the school’s 11-year-old football program.

The War Eagles realize that, but despite everything that’s on the line when Monroe Area comes to town — a region title, the most wins in school history — they say they’re taking the same approach that’s led to seven straight wins.

“We’re still grinding, just like every other week,” senior Quan Clark said.

No sense in changing things now. Not while the Chestatee offense is breaking records and putting up points like never before. Not after the War Eagles have risen to every occasion in region play, winning twice in overtime and stunning then-No. 5 Stephens County on the road.

For Chestatee, the scenario is simple: win, and you’re Region 8-AAAA champs.

And while a loss wouldn’t eliminate the possibility of a region title — a three-way tie would still be possible if Eastside wins its final two games, including a showdown with Monroe Area (8-0, 5-0) next week — Chestatee isn’t thinking about what-if scenarios.

“We’re approaching this as business as usual,” coach Stan Luttrell said. “It is a big game, but we’ve played in several big games already this year. We’re just coming to work another week. With every win, each game has more importance. This one is important for several reasons, but if we hadn’t won those other games, then we wouldn’t be in this situation.”

The Chestatee offense might be the biggest reason the War Eagles (7-1, 5-0) are in position to bring home their first region championship.

The War Eagles are scoring more than 40 points per game, led by a rushing offense that’s gone over 500 yards in two of the last three games. Last week’s 505 rushing yards against Lumpkin County was part of 622 yards of total offense, breaking the school record set earlier this year against Eastside.

“Every bit of that starts with our offensive line,” Luttrell said. “Our offensive line is doing an amazing job, and to have that amount of ability (in the backfield) behind them is something. We’ve had one or two (running backs) in the past, but now we have several guys who are athletic, and that really makes the scheme even more dangerous.”

Clark, who went over 1,000 yards for the season last week, leads the team and is third in the area in rushing yards. But the Chestatee split-back veer offense is at its most potent when all its pieces are clicking.

Sophomore running back A.J. Sijiye has stepped into a starring role multiple times this season and has 687 yards on 80 carries (8.6 average). Senior running back Brandon Thompson, who finished second in the 100 meters and third in the 200 at the Georgia Olympics last spring, has translated that track speed into 400 rushing yards on 51 carries (7.8 average).

And helming the attack is seasoned senior quarterback Jordan Degraff, who has run for 523 yards, passed for 432, and accounted for 15 total touchdowns.

“As a whole, it’s hard to key on just one person,” Clark said. “You can’t, because we’ve got three other people rushing the ball. For me, it takes a lot of stress off, because if they’re keying on me, somebody else is going to have a real big game.”

Similarly, Monroe Area (8-0, 5-0) has shown an ability to score in bunches with a variety of personnel groupings.

The sixth-ranked Purple Hurricanes are led by Matt Fligg, the coach who launched the Chestatee program in 2002. Since leaving for Monroe Area in 2006, he’s helped turn around the Purple Hurricanes and has them headed to the playoffs for the third straight year.

This year’s team, which averages a region-best 48.8 points per game, got a boost from Peachtree Ridge transfer Stanton Truitt. The junior southpaw quarterback “makes the offense go,” according to Luttrell, but the Purple Hurricanes have done just fine since he went down with an ankle injury.

With junior Michael Gallup filling in the last two weeks, Monroe Area hasn’t missed a beat, winning 49-6 over Walnut Grove and 63-6 over Madison County. Gallup, who started at quarterback for Riverside Military as a freshman, was the Purple Hurricanes’ leading receiver before stepping in at signal caller.

Luttrell added that Gallup may even be the better passer of the two quarterbacks.

It’s unclear if Truitt will be able to return today, but regardless of who’s taking the snaps, containing Monroe Area’s speed will be the focus for Chestatee’s defense.

“The No. 1 thing about Monroe Area is they’re very athletic,” Luttrell said. “They have speed all over the field. They play hard, and the speed factor is going to be the No. 1 issue that we have to deal with.”

Chestatee’s defense is giving up 26 points per game, but has been strong against the run, yielding only 3.8 yards per carry on the season.

Meanwhile, Monroe Area boasts the region’s top defense, yielding 12.1 points per game. Like the offense, speed is the unit’s top asset.

“They’re a base 3-4, but they are multiple depending on what they’re facing,” Luttrell said. “They’ve shown many looks, so we’re not sure exactly how they’re going to line up against us, but that’s part of the fun of Fridays.”
And this Friday, more than most, figures to be especially fun.

“Everybody’s talking about it,” senior Kelly Arthur said. “(The fans) get excited about every game, but this is a big one — region championship, senior night, all of it.

“This is a big game.”

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