Monroe Area has made a statement during the first four weeks of the season and has taken its place beside the top teams in the classification.
The Purple Hurricanes, in coach Kevin Reach's second season, have earned their position as the fourth-ranked team in the class. Monroe Area has beaten Apalachee (35-7), Loganville (52-24), and Pace Academy (36-15) and Walnut Grove (28-7) this season.
Reach, who spent seven seasons (2010-2016) as Collins Hill's head coach, compiled a 10-2 record in 2017, his first season at Monroe Area. The Purple Hurricanes’ only regular-season loss came against Morgan County (22-21) which cost Monroe Area the 8-AAA title. At Collins Hill, Reach won a region title in 2013.
Monroe Area entered the playoffs last year with a 9-1 record, and following the first-round blowout of North Hall (42-7) the Purple Hurricanes gave eventual-champion Calhoun a solid challenge in the second round before losing 28-20. The early exit at the hands of one of the classification's top teams gave Monroe Area a desire to push its limits this summer in preparation for 2018.
Coach Reach spent time Monday and Tuesday to assess the state of his program, tell a bit about himself and reflect on his two seasons as the head coach:
Q. Has Monroe Area been overlooked when it comes to rankings?
A. Well, I think we had a pretty good team last year. We made a decent run in the playoffs, and I thought we played Calhoun really well. We might have been overlooked a little bit. But at the same time, we hadn’t really, well, I won’t say we hadn’t played a quality opponent, but it's just one of those things. (Class) AAA is just so good and there are so many other teams that got ranked, but I felt like we have a lot of returning parts from last year’s team. We had a solid JV team last year and put in some pieces that we wanted to put in. We felt like we put in more of the things that we needed to and we had an offseason with them over the summer-time. We were able to do more things like playing in that Corky Kell 7-on-7 and schedule a few scrimmages and play some really good teams to get us a little more battle-tested. It’s still 7-on-7 so it isn’t totally “football,” but we ended up beating Buford and Grayson so we saw the best the state had to offer, and I felt like our kids did really well. I wanted them to see the best teams in the state to show them that they can compete.
Q. Beating Pace, what did that mean?
A. Well, I didn’t know this, but that’s probably one of the biggest wins in school history. At least it was one of the highest-ranked teams. I think that years ago, 2003, they maybe knocked off Morgan County when they were ranked 10th. But I think that’s the highest they’ve knocked off in the regular season, from what I’ve heard. I don’t really know. I know that our kids are confident. They felt like we could beat Pace Academy. They are confident, and they work hard and we kind of like where we are going right now. We have to just stay focused and keep doing what we are doing and take one game at a time.
Q. When the top three teams look down at a fourth-ranked Monroe Area, what do they see?
A. I don’t really know. I haven’t played any of them. I am not too familiar with them with the exception of Calhoun. I'm not too sure. I know coach Lamb does a good job, and I felt like we had a good battle up at their place last year in the playoffs. I don’t know. Our main focus is to win as many region games as we can. And if we make the playoffs we will just keep plugging along. It’s still such a long season. We haven’t even gotten into region play yet. We played well, and I think we’ve played the opponents that we wanted to play in our non-region games. So that’s when it all counts. All that other stuff just gets you prepared. We will see in the next three or four weeks where we are headed.
Q. What keeps you busy outside of football?
A. Family. Anytime I can be around my family that is what I strive for. My two children, I have a girl, Brooke, and a son, Bailey. They are huge Monroe Area fans. Brooke is a seventh-grader and helps out at practice and on the sideline during games. She is our water girl at practice and helps us out. Bailey is 7 and just loves the ‘Canes. I also have the best coach’s wife in the world, Amy. So I would say that if I am not around football, I am around my family.