Who: Monroe (3-3 overall, 2-2 SEC Red) at Saline (6-0 overall, 4-0 SEC Red)
What: Homecoming football game
When: 5:15 p.m. parade, 7 p.m. game.
All Time Record: Saline leads the series 6-3 since 1950.
Last year: Saline 28 Monroe 0, at Monroe
Streak: Saline has won 5 straight games, including one playoff game, against Monroe dating back to 2012, when the Joe Palka era began.
What’s at stake for Saline: With a win, Saline clinches sole possession of the SEC Red. Saline can also clinch its third straight unblemished season in the SEC Red.
What’s at stake for Monroe: If Monroe loses, they’re likely out of the playoffs
Student Section: The students are wearing gold.
Saline vs. Monroe
Saline (6-0 overall and 4-0 in the SEC Red) win sole possession of the SEC Red if it can defeat Monroe (3-3 overall and 2-2 in the SEC Red) on Friday at Hornet Stadium. Like the Pioneers last week, the Trojans are better than their record indicates. And they’re hungry. If the Trojans are to make the playoffs, they need to finish the regular season with three straight wins – a tall order, considering the combined record of the three opponents is 18-0.
Coach Joe Palka said his team expects yet another tight match up in the SEC.
“We told the kids that Monroe beat Pioneer and had every chance to beat Bedford. We know how good those teams are. So we’re expecting another game that goes down to the wire,” Palka said.
Except for the Skyline loss, the Trojans defense has been stingy, giving up just 13 points to Bedford and Pioneer and seven points to Huron. Palka points to the team’s experienced linebackers and secondary.
“They have a very good defense. Their linebackers blitz a lot and they’re really disruptive,” Palka said. “If you remember the skyline game, they hurt us a lot with the blitz. We were a little too one dimensional in that game. So we need to have a more balanced attack, like we showed in the Bedford game, and hopefully we can keep them guessing.”
That likely means rushing from RB Connor Hibbard, Andrew Diuble and QB Zach Schwartzenberger. Expect Schwartzenberger to try and spread the ball around between TE Bryce Wolma, receivers Diuble, Nate Gresser and Emmett Turner and Hibbard.
Palka said the traditional Monroe Wing T offense has been changed a little bit.
“They’re showing more elements of the spread but there are still three elements of the Wing T. They’re still going to try to pound you with three backs in the field, but they throw the ball better this year,” Palka said. “They have a well round offense that poses a lot of formation challenges. You can’t only focus on the run or they’re they’ll try to hit the big play in the passing game.”
Last week, on a rainy night at Bedford, the Trojans outgained Bedford 140-102 on the ground and 190-174 overall. Carson Clark ran 28 times for 104 yards. Monroe’s only touchdown came on a six-yard passing play between QB Ryan Ernest and Lane Kirk.
In last week’s win a Pioneer, Saline clinched a playoff spot and a share of the SEC Red title. This week, a Saline win clinches their third straight championship and a third straight undefeated season. A loss, couple with a Bedford win against Huron, would mean Saline and Bedford share the title.
“The main goal as always is to get better every week. But we’re greedy,” coach Palka said. “We don’t want to share the SEC,” Palka said.
Senior DE Sean O’Keefe, a varsity starter since his sophomore year, said the Hornets do not want to share the title.
“Everyone wants to win this thing outright. No one likes to share a championship, it’s like kissing your sister,” O’Keefe said. “To win another SEC title outright would be a dream for me and I can’t for next Friday and work with these guys.”