Monroe @ Saline
Last year: Saline 42 Monroe 14
Brendan Munday rushed for 5 TDs. Saline led 14-7 at half before blowing it open in the 2nd half.
History: Saline is 8-3 against Skyline
Streak: Saline has 6 straight wins
Last Monroe Win: 2011, 35-28
(current seniors starting middle school)
Best Game: 2014 playoffs, Saline 28, Monroe 22
MONROE LAST WEEK
Monroe 42 Pioneer 7
The Trojans improved to 6-1 to earn their first playoff berth since 2015. Jalen Johnson ran for a 15-yard TD in the first quarter and then added a 70-yard kickoff return touchdown in the second half. Jared Banks ran for a 46-yard TD.
It’s the game of the year for two great football teams.
Saline and Monroe have identical records. They’re both 6-1 overall. They both clinched playoff spots last week. They’re both 4-0 in the SEC Red.
The winner of Friday’s game takes the SEC Red Championship.
For Saline, fair or not, they’re the favorite. They’re the home team. They’re the team that’s won four straight SEC Red titles – going 20-0 in the process. They’ve won all eight games against Monroe in the Joe Palka era – and that includes two playoff games.
But this isn’t the Monroe team the Hornets have faced in recent years.
“We’re going to have our hands full. It’s as good a Monroe team as I’ve seen in the seven years I’ve been here,” Coach Joe Palka said.
Monroe has outscored its SEC Red opponents 159-26. Saline has outscored their SEC opponents 137-32.
The big difference between Saline and Monroe in the SEC this year is that Monroe clobbered Bedford 41-6. Saline allowed Bedford to claw back into the game, winning 31-26.
Palka said the Trojans run behind a big offensive line, which includes 305-pound guard PJ Brown and 250-pound tackle Joe Schnorberger. The big guys create room for two talented running backs.
Jared Banks (#20) is a 5’9, 185-pound running back who can pound it inside. Senior Jalen Johnson (#4) is a “speed kid on the outside who’s an incredible player,” Palka said.
Quarterback Maleik Linton doesn’t throw a lot, but he’s athletic and can make plays.
“It’s going to remind people of what we saw against Chippewa Valley,” Palka said.
Most of Monroe’s best players play offense and defense. So the Hornets, who only use defensive stars MJ Griffin and Alex Morrison on offense when they need a big play, should gain a physical advantage as the game goes on.
As well, the Hornets have been playing well, of late too. Saline has won six straight, including six straight shutouts. People are taking notice, too. The Associated Press has Saline tied for eighth in Division 1.
“We like it at home. It’s a good challenge. We’re playing good football, too. So, I think it’s got the makings of a great championship game,” coach Palka said.
Linebacker Connor Terech said these are the kinds of games the Hornets relish.
“Monroe’s a great team and we’re really excited to go against them. It’s always fun to compete for another SEC title,” Terech said.
Tight end Brendan Murphy hopes to see an enthusiastic crowd on hand for Friday’s game.
“It’s big. It’s the last regular season home game and it’s homecoming, too. Everyone they’ve been playing it seems like they’ve been rolling. I can’t wait to play them. It’s going to be a great game. They’re going to come out firing,” Murphy said. “They’re going to come ready and we’re going to come ready. So be there. It’s going to be a great game and I’m excited to go.”
Highlights from last year: