When two defending state champions get together for a playoff matchup, it is usually one for the books. It also comes down to who makes the fewest mistakes. Things took off early for Shelby. Special teams set the tone early when Monroe was forced to punt. Jayden Borders received the punt and he took it 57 yards for a touchdown.
Monroe seemed poised to respond to the early the score as they made it to the Shelby 23-yard line. But penalties would back the Red Hawks up. Quarterback Trey Shephard was sacked on consecutive plays. The second one was deadly as Shelby’s Michael Carson forced a fumble and Tre Ross returned the fumbled 51 yards for a Shelby touchdown.
Before you could blink, it was 14-0. The Golden Lions’ offense finally got in on the action as Jwan “Truck” Sims punched one in for three yards. Ethan Triplett’s kick for the extra point made it 21-0. Then came a bright spot for Monroe. Ty’Quavious Brewer received the ensuing kickoff and returned it 90 yards for a touchdown. Bryan Diaz-Ryes’s extra point cut the lead to 21-7 and that’s what it would be going into half-time.
Neither team could get much going offensively in the second half. Both defenses were stingy for the entire third quarter. Mistakes hurt both teams as both were plagued by penalties in this game. In the fourth quarter, the Golden Lions were able to completely pull away. After being backed up by a holding penalty to Monroe’s 18-yard line, quarterback Malik Surratt found Darius Fuller wide open in the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown pass. Triplett was 4-for-4 on extra points.
After giving up a season high 33 points last week to Hunter Huss, Shelby’s defense limited Monroe to 32 yards total offense.
“I’m happy for our kids. They put in a lot of work this week and all season to get to this point.” said Shelby head coach Lance Ware “This is a goal that each team sets every year. Going into next Saturday, there will be 16 teams and we are happy to be one of them.”
“They’re all a little bit different.” Ware said of each state title “But they all still come down to defense this time of year. Defense and having to make a drive in the fourth quarter to seal the game and that’s what our guys did tonight.”
“It sounds cliché but we’re just enjoying the ride. This group is so special in what they have accomplished this season. We’ve said from day 1 that this group has not won a state championship. They’ve bought into that and they want to leave their own mark.”
“It was two good teams, two state champions playing each other.” said Monroe head coach Johnny Sowell “You can’t spot a state champion 14 points. Mistakes hurt us. The biggest was penalties. We make a big play and see the yellow flag. We can’t be in 2nd and long or 3rd and long situations. Defense played great. The ball on the ground at times and just couldn’t get on it.”
Shelby will play Northside-Jacksonville in the 2AA State Championship game. That game will be played at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, Saturday at 11:00 a.m.