MONROE — A standing-room only crowd arrived early for Friday's meeting between Southeastern Conference backyard rivals Bedford High and Monroe High.
More was at stake than just who would be announced as this year's Monroe homecoming king and queen.
The game's outcome could determine the conference championship.
And it did.
Defending SEC champion Bedford dealt Monroe a 21-6 defeat to claim a second straight conference title under coach Jeff Wood, who was showered with water by his players at the game's conclusion.
“Our kids just play with a lot of guts and courage, and they definitely deserved it tonight,” Wood said. “Each [conference title] is its own entity. That was such a great group of kids last year, and the reason why we won it this year was because of them.
“These kids took the mantle, and they just went with it.”
PHOTO GALLERY: HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Bedford High School at Monroe High School Oct. 8, 2010
Mules quarterback Jared Kujawa and running back Erik Jones carried undefeated Bedford (7-0, 5-0 SEC) to victory by combining for 161 rushing yards, including three touchdowns.
Kujawa rushed for a team-high 84 yards on 17 carries, including a four-yard touchdown run. Jones churned his way to 77 yards on 11 carries, including a game-clinching 49-yard TD run late in the fourth quarter.
“This was big,” Jones said. “We took it one game by one. We're league champs now, 7-0.”
Monroe coach Eric Redmond said the Mules didn't offer any surprises to the Trojans. The defending champs simply wouldn't be denied.
“They do what they do, but they do it well,” Redmond said. “They execute well.”
The Mules struck first when they marched 65 yards for a score with their first possession. Jones finished off the drive by pulling in a 20-yard TD pass from Kujawa (4-for-10 92 yards) midway through the first quarter to give the Mules a 7-0 lead.
However, the Trojans (3-4, 3-2 SEC) broke through a tough Mules defense with a scoring drive to open the second period. Monroe quarterback Mitchell Kuehnlein, who finished with 44 yards rushing and 37 yards passing, made it 7-6 when he scored on a one-yard keeper with 7:46 remaining in the half.
Bedford carried its slim edge into the break.
Following the 20-minute halftime, during which Trojans halfback Sam Quinn was named homecoming king and senior Chelsea Salame was announced homecoming queen, the Mules came out and delivered a quick scoring drive to add to their lead.
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Kujawa increased Bedford's advantage to 14-6 when he punched it in on a four-yard keeper with six minutes left in the third quarter.
Yet, the Trojans remained in striking distance until midway through the final quarter, when the Mules defense stepped up. They stopped Monroe tailback Travon Hamilton short of the line of scrimmage on a fourth-and-inches play, turning the ball over on downs near midfield.
A few moments later, Jones scored the backbreaking TD when he slipped through the Trojans' defense for his second score of the night.
“They all bit on Jared's fake, and I saw the hole and just ran,” Jones said of his late score, which was also his longest run of the night.32.67932 -89.44662 ERROR: Template storyimage.ldo not found in theme default for section frontpage!
A standing-room only crowd arrived early for Friday's meeting between Southeastern Conference backyard rivals Bedford High and Monroe High. More was at stake than just who would be announced as this year's Monroe homecoming king and queen.