MONROE — Playing for the first time in three weeks due to COVID-19 protocols, the 2A Monroe High Redhawks improved their record to 2-1 with a 60-23 home win over 4A Sun Valley on Friday.
Four-star wide receiver Shaleak “Punch” Knotts, a Maryland commit, caught two touchdown passes and also returned a punt 70 yards for a touchdown to help Monroe cruise to victory. The Redhawks, who have won three straight against the Spartans in the post-Sam Howell era, got two touchdowns from their defense.
Knotts has been slowed by a leg injury this season, and was anxious to get back on the field.
“I told myself that I had to come back and show everybody what I can do,” Knotts said. “We came back and did what we had to do… I came to help my team; they had my back, and we took it from there.”
On Sun Valley’s first offensive possession, Monroe sophomore linebacker Jayden Olden returned an interception 25 yards for a touchdown just two minutes into the game. Olden also contributed two sacks.
The next possession for the Spartans resulted in a Monroe fumble recovery. Sophomore Nate Crosby, who finished with 14 carries for 136 yards, put his team ahead 14-0 with his first touchdown of the night for six yards out. Crosby has rushed for 294 yards in three games this season.
“I feel great that my team got back on the field,” Crosby said. “I want to thank God for my offensive line, because I couldn’t do it without them getting a push upfront.”
Sun Valley’s defense forced a turnover when Mychal Deberry recovered a fumble, and it led to a 3-yard touchdown run by Toney McFadden, who rushed 15 times for 176 yards and a touchdown.
Monroe responded, with Knotts hauling in a touchdown over a defender from QB Khamoni Robinson from 19 yards out. to extend their lead 21-7 late in the first quarter. Robinson completed 10-of-13 passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns on the night.
The Redhawks scored 18 unanswered points in the second quarter. Crosby rushed for his second from six yards out, Knotts returned a punt 70 yards for a TD, and Elliot Reid returned an interception 70 yards to give his team a 39-7 lead at halftime.
“We just wanted to get on the field,” Monroe head coach Johnny Sowell said. “The kids wanted to get their legs moving around. There was some new stuff that we’ve been working on ... Getting back on the field was the biggest thing for us.”
The Redhawks started the second half with Robinson throwing a 28-yard touchdown pass to Knotts.
In 36 career games, Knotts now has 33 touchdown catches and 36 TDs overall.
Monroe sophomore Zach Melton scored his first career touchdown on a 17-yard run before McFadden scored two more touchdowns on runs of 76 yards and 1 yard that cut the deficit 53-20 by the end of the third quarter.
Monroe senior Jaikhob Covington completed the scoring with a 6-yard touchdown run of in the fourth quarter.
The RedHawks will start conference play when they travel to Anson on Oct. 1. Sun Valley will try to get their first victory since 2019 when they travel to Central Pageland next Friday.
Monroe 60, Sun Valley 23
M — Jayden Olden 25 Interception Return (Angel Valenzuela kick)
M — Nate Crosby 4 Run (Valenzuela kick)
SV — Toney McFadden 5 Run (Collin Vick kick)
M — Shaleak Knotts 19 Pass from Khamoni Robinson (Valenzuela kick)
M — Crosby 6 Run (kick blocked)
M — Knotts 70 Punt Return (kick blocked)
M — Elliot Reid 70 Interception Return (kick blocked)
M — Knotts 28 Pass from Robinson (Valenzuela kick)
M — Zach Melton 17 Run (Valenzuela kick)
SV — McFadden 76 Run (Vick kick)
SV — McFadden 1 Run (Vick kick)
M — Jaikhob Covington 6 Run (Valenzuela kick)
Rushing: M — Crosby 14-136, Robinson 6-54, Zach Melton 5-37, Covington 2-15; SV — McFadden 15-176, Eli Fletcher 5-4, Jaden Goeller 4-30, Brady Turriff 1-(-5)
Passing: M — Khamoni Robinson 10-13-0 106; SV — Eli Fletcher 3-11-3 67, Turriff 4-7-1 32
Receiving: M — Knotts 3-56, Covington 3-15, Reid 2-19, Jordan Young 1-12, Crosby 1-7; SV — Mason Tinsley 5-69, Landon Thomas 1-14, Dakota Arnold 1-16