When the Lumpkin County football team puts on the pads to face off with Monroe Area at 7:30 p.m. Friday at J.P. King Memorial Stadium in Dahlonega, there will be more on the line than a spot in the state playoffs.
The Indians will be playing for pride.
Going into the first meeting between these two teams on Sept. 17, Lumpkin County was 2-0 for the first time since 2007.
Four quarters later, Monroe Area rode out of Dahlonega with a 10-3 win and Lumpkin County was 2-1.
“With any loss it’s disappointing, but we felt that we stood tall in the game against a good Monroe Area team,” Lumpkin County coach Tommy Jones said. “Unfortuantely we just came out on the losing end.
“They just executed the plays that they needed to win and we didn’t.”
The game was dominated by defense and came down to one crucial turnover by the Indians.
Tied 3-3 in the middle of the fourth quarter, Lumpkin County was attempting to drive for a go-ahead score when it fumbled the ball on what Jones described as a pretty common play for Lumpkin County.
“It was a normal play for us and we just fumbled,” Jones said.
The Purple Hurricanes capitalized, drove down the field and finally broke into the end zone to give them the 10-3 victory.
Each team only managed five first downs in the game and neither had more than 230 total yards. The 10 points was the lowest total of the season for Monroe Area.
“They got after us pretty good,” Monroe Area coach Matt Fligg said. “They were very physical and ran the ball good and we just didn’t do a good job on offense.
“They took it to us and just stuffed us.”
Monroe Area (8-1, 4-1 Region 8B-AAA) defeated Johnson 41-0 last week to earn the No. 2 seed from the south side of region; the Indians (6-3, 3-2 Region 8A-AAA) are the third seed from the north after defeating Chestatee 31-6.
Lumpkin County relies heavily on senior quarterback Taylor Guthrie, who threw for 54 yards and ran for 18 in the first game against Monroe Area.
On the season, Guthrie has thrown for 831 yards with a completion rate of 54 percent and has ran for 376 yards and three touchdowns on 91 carries.
“Taylor is invaluable to our team,” Jones said. “He’s an extremely smart player who has the ability to get us into the right formation. We put a lot on his shoulders.
“He’s a leader and the rest of the team really responds well to him.”
One player who did not have a big impact during the first meeting with Monroe Area was Micheal Flanagan. The senior running back only had six yards on three carries Sept. 17, but has totaled 566 yards and 13 touchdowns on 98 carries this year.
Jones credits the strength of the Monroe Area defensive line for Flanagan’s low numbers in the first meeting.
“(Monroe Area) has a very good defensive line, one of the best in the state,” Jones said. “They have incredible strong defensive ends and a nose guard that’s over 350 pounds and moves very well and that just takes things away from you.”
Flanagan did have a good week last week, carrying the ball 11 times for 69 yards and two touchdowns and if Lumpkin County wants to find itself in the state playoffs for the first time since 2003, Jones knows Flanagan will need to have a big game.
“He’s a big part of our offense, so he has to play big for us to win,” Jones said.
Flanagan will have his share of carries, but the Indians might take to the passing game in order to combat Monroe Area’s tough defensive front.
“I have no idea. Obviously, I know the game plan, but at the same time the flow of the game dictates what we’ll be able to do,” Jones said. “I do know that we seem to play better when we have good balance between the pass and run.”
Monroe Area relies heavily on the legs of senior running back Tre Burdette.
“Tre’s been good for us this year,” Fligg said. “We’ve moved him around a little so that we could get the ball in his hands more, and he’s really stepped up the last four or five games.
“It’s going to take another great performance to give us the chance to win Friday.”
The Purple Hurricanes are anchored by a strong defensive line, which features senior defensive end Stephon Tuitt and junior defensive end Kendarious Whitehead. Truitt is verbally comitted to Notre Dame.
“Having to run against those two guys and that big nose tackle really makes it hard on you,” Jones said.
Monroe Area is giving up a measly 8.7 points per game this season, though that number is skewed highly after the Purple Hurricanes gave up 49 points to subregion winner Gainesville on Oct. 15, which is the only loss Monroe Area has suffered this season.
If the game proves to be as defensive as the first, the kicking of Taylor Burns may prove to be the difference for Lumpkin County. Burns had the only points during the Sept. 17 meeting and is 7-for-9 kicking field goals this season with a long of 42 yards.
“I trust (Burns) in almost every situation,” Jones said. “He’s very calm under pressure, very consistant and extremely reliable.”