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Patriots roll with 40-12 win

MONROE - After scoring on its first possession of the game, Monroe Area tricked Heritage on Friday into thinking it might get its first win of the season.

Instead, the Patriots (5-4) treated the Purple Hurricanes (0-9) to a 40-12 rout at the Purple Pit in a game that had 11 combined turnovers.

"I'm excited and happy for these kids," Heritage coach Chad Frazier said. "They played their tails off. We'll enjoy it (today) and then Sunday we've got to go right back to work."

After holding Heritage to a quick three-and-out on its opening possession, Monroe reached into its bag of goodies first thanks to a 5-yard touchdown run by Michael Hendricks.

Despite a failed PAT by Aaron Moss, the Hurricanes led 6-0 with 7:43 left in the first quarter, igniting the crowd and electrifying the Monroe sideline.

At this time, Frazier collected several of his key players to simply remind them what was at stake - a possible postseason berth.

"I told them if we don't strap it up, tighten things down and play our game, and if we let them hang around, they're going to be dangerous," he said. "It told me that maybe we weren't as focused as we needed to be and we certainly didn't need to allow them any momentum. We had to find a way to get it back immediately."

The Patriots eventually would, but not on their next possession. Bradley Smith gave the ball back to Monroe after chasing quarterback Garry Peters out of the pocket, forcing and then recovering a fumble at the Heritage 23-yard line.

Still, the Hurricanes could not take advantage of the turnover. The key defensive stop came after a botched snap, leading to Heritage's Melvin Jones stopping quarterback Demontevious Smith for a loss of 10 yards.

The change of possession, which started toward the end of the first quarter and ended 10:19 into the second, thus led to a 12-play drive capped by a 1-yard sneak by Peters, who ended the night with 42 rushing yards on 12 carries.

After the PAT by Grant Kelly, Heritage was on top 7-6, a lead it would not relinquish.

Peters scored again 4:03 later on Heritage's next possession with a 7-yard run, and Kelly's kick gave the Patriots a 14-6 cushion.

After forcing Monroe to punt on its next possession, Heritage tacked on two more points with a safety after the snap sailed over kicker Taylor Bailey's head into the end zone.

Both squads exchanged turnovers on each of their next possessions, first a fumble by Heritage's Devon Holmes (recovered by Bradley) immediately followed by a Smith interception to Reggie Juin.

Monroe's D.J. Hendricks returned the favor with an interception of his own with 1:26 until halftime, keeping the score 16-6.

In the first half, Heritage held Monroe to just 50 total yards of offense and three first downs. In fact, the Purple Hurricanes only had 13 rushing yards on 13 carries.

Meanwhile, the Patriots rushed for 160 yards on 31 carries, leading to 12 first downs.

Heritage wasted no time in the third frame, padding its lead early into the third quarter after a blocked punt. Zane Barefield pounced on the ball in the end zone, and after the PAT the Patriots were up 23-6.

Soon Juin snatched his second pick of the game, bringing it to the Monroe 9-yard line. Two plays later Peters had his third rushing touchdown of the game on a 7-yard keeper to the right.

After the PAT, Heritage led 30-6 with 3:53 left in the third quarter.

Just 33 seconds later the Patriots scored again, this time on a 10-yard run by Holmes, made possible by a Zack Wilson interception in the backfield.

Overall, Holmes had a game-high 75 rushing yards on 15 carries.

Heritage's defense continued to bother Monroe on its next set of downs. A monster sack on quarterback Christian Varnes by Justin Jones ended the third quarter, thus turning it back over to the Patriots.

However, on their first play of the fourth stanza Anthony Landy coughed it up to Monroe's Eric Brand at the Heritage 47-yard line.

Two plays later Varnes connected with receiver Treshard Burdette for a 47-yard touchdown, coming just three yards shy of Monroe's total offense in the first half.

Varnes finished 7 of 13 passing with 145 yards and two interceptions.

After the failed two-point conversion, Heritage was ahead 37-12 with 9:51 left in the game.

Another fumble by Varnes, recovered by Heritage's David Plunkett, eventually led to 21-yard field goal off the leg of Kelly.

Despite totaling only 12 yards of offense in the second half, Heritage finished with 181 - 23 more than Monroe.

On the ground, the Hurricanes ran for just 13 yards on 28 carries.

Jason Murdock can be reached at jason.murdock@rockdalecitizen.com.