After three straight playoff appearances, the Monroe Area Purple Hurricanes have changed how their seasons are judged and the expectations – at least, those from outside the program – are at levels surpassing anything the Walton County school has seen.
To meet those expectations, Monroe Area coach Matt Fligg is using spring drills to shore up physical strength on the offensive line and mental strength throughout the roster.
Having seen the state’s elite – twice in the past three years, they’ve been shown the playoff exit door with blowout losses to Sandy Creek – Fligg is convinced that intangibles are the path to the top.
“If you’re going to beat Sandy Creek, you’ve got to be mentally tough,” said Fligg, whose team lost 35-0 to the eventual state champions in the semifinals. “We don’t want to have gimmick game plans so we have to switch what we do.”
The team’s early morning workouts took on a new intensity this spring, Fligg said, indicating a recognition that the program has a chance to do special things this fall.
“We called it commitment time,” Fligg said. We really pushed the kids more than I’ve pushed any team I’ve had. We worked on their mental toughness. Having them believe. It was only 40 minutes, because we start school at 7:10, but we really pushed it hard. Our kids did it. They want it and they accept it.”
With the intangibles a work in progress, the Hurricanes have plenty of tangibles to work with, particularly on offense, where they put up video game numbers last fall, scoring 514 points. Quarerback Stanton Truitt is one of the most dynamic players in Class AAAA. Despite missing four games, he rushed for more than 1,400 yards and passed for more than 800 in 2012, and led game-winning drives in the first two playoff rounds.
Truitt, who has more than 30 scholarship offers, is coupled with RB Kwan Brooks, who topped 1,900 rushing yards.
Against lesser competition, the two of them, along with WR Michael Gallup, figure to run roughshod. But when the opponents are at Monroe Area’s level, Fligg is looking to the offensive line to pave the way.
“We’ve got to have the strongest offensive line that we’ve had. For us to put it all together and get past Sandy Creek, our line’s got to be able to blow people off the ball. We’re going to look for real physical interior line play,” Fligg said.
Things are less certain on the defensive side, where Monroe Area lost both starting cornerbacks, two linebackers and two defensive linemen. And kicker/punter Cody Brown, a four-year starter, also is moving on.
“We’ve never kicked much in spring practice, but we’re kicking this spring,” Fligg said.
Monroe Area Purple Hurricanes
2012 record: 12-2, 6-1 Region 8-AAAA, lost in state semifinals to Sandy Creek
Starters returning: 7 offense; 5 defense
Key players lost: WR Sean Garrison, WR Cody Brown, OT Jobe Fortner, CB T.J. Sigmund, CB DaTavious Malcom.
Key players returning: QB Stanton Truitt, RB Kwan Brooks, , S Junior Reed, LB D.J. Smith, OL Dustin Young, OL Grayson Williams
Spring practice dates: April 30 – May 11
Schedule: Aug. 30 at Loganville, Sept. 6 at Winder-Barrow, Sept. 13 Oconee County, Sept. 20 at Lumpkin County, Sept. 27 Lanier, Oct. 11 at Stephens County, Oct. 18 Walnut Grove, Oct. 25 at Madison County, Nov. 1Chestatee, Nov. 8 Eastside.
Outlook: There are questions on the defense, with two starters gone in the secondary, two in the linebacking corps and two on the line. The real question, though, is whether opponents will be able to slow down the Hurricanes’ offense, which put up 514 points in 2012 and figures to be just as potent in 2013, with most of the key skilled players returning.