That started with Talawanda in the opener, and Monroe rolled to a 49-14 win. The Hornets then took the positives from a 21-14 loss against Ross and learned some lessons that now have carried into Southwest Buckeye League play. The Rams had beaten them 52-14 in the playoffs last year.
“The No. 1 thing was we learned we could compete with Ross,” Mullins said. “They are a solid program, and it was a one-score game. Our kids played hard and learned in big games that are close, little things add up and that’s the difference in winning and losing in a tight game. If we did two or three things differently, that changes outcome. That was one of best teams in the region last year and we can play with these guys.”
Monroe won a shootout with Western Brown in Week 3, prevailing 66-58, and then last week beat Brookville, 33-13, to end a six-game losing streak in the rivalry series. In that one, the Hornets rushed for 336 yards and burst to a 23-0 lead in the first 18 minutes, a fast start that Mullins credits to preparation and leadership.
The victory last week especially was important starting off Southwestern Buckeye League play on a good note, as the Hornets now head on the road for two straight weeks.
“Brookville has been one of the best teams in our league for a while, always in the top two or three, and we haven’t beaten them in seven years, so there’s a lot of momentum moving into this week,” Mullins said. “Oakwood is a solid program, and they are moving in the right direction. They beat us last year in a tough, hard-fought game that was really close. We expect it to be a really good game.”
Monroe’s has scored a league-high 162 points through four games overall and will be looking to give problems to Oakwood’s defense. Quarterback Alex Pitsch effectively runs the Hornet’s triple-option offense, which is led by running backs Elijah Jackson and Ryan Miles.
Working behind an offensive line of Zechariah Kidd, Tysen Rupp, Karson Gomia, Chris Reber, Zach Hagedorn and tight end Konnor Loper, Jackson already has 851 yards and five touchdowns on 96 carries, while Miles adds 454 yards and six touchdowns on 37 rushes.
“It all starts up front with the offensive line, where we are big and strong and get a lot of movement,” Mullins said. “They do a great jo creating space for our backs to score the football. I think that’s the strongest unit on the team. We win games up front with those guys, and then our quarterback also has done an outstanding job putting the ball where it needs to go. We’re a read offense, so he does a great job reading things and he puts the ball where it needs to go on every play and that gives us a great opportunity for success.”
Oakwood brings a spread offense that shows more balance than a lot of the teams Monroe faces. Ever since the high-scoring affair with Western Brown, the Hornets have been working on their pass defense and that will be the focus Friday, as well.
Monroe’s defense is led by linebackers Wyatt McPherson and Tanner Chastain, as well as the defensive line of Konnor Loper, Andrew Sharp, Hagedorn and Rupp.
“We just want to continue to do what we’ve been doing,” Mullins said when asked what he wants to have achieved by the midway point of the season, following Friday’s game. “Play as hard as we can, prepare as hard as we can and see what comes out of that. If we line up and play hard, we feel we have a great shot to win every week. Our goal is to be 4-1. That’s the best we can do this week.”