Monroe looks to continue hot play at Barnesville

BARNESVILLE — Things didn’t start well for Monroe Central this season. But, the last four weeks have been more to the Seminoles’ liking.

Boosted by improved performances across the board, Coach Jay Circosta’s squad has won three of four and will carry a two-game winning streak down Ohio 800 on Friday night for a battle against Belmont County foe Barnesville.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Shamrock Stadium.

”The past two weeks, we’ve looked like a different ballclub,” Circosta said. ”We’ve really improved defensively.

”I was really concerned early in the season that we were giving up a lot of points, even though it was against good teams. It was making it tough to win.

”We’ve played a lot better defensively as of late.”

Monroe Central has allowed 19 and 22 points, respectively, in victories against Magnolia and Shenandoah.

”Actually, our performance (last Friday night) was like some of our old Seminole teams,” Circosta said. ”We had some pretty good hitting, and I was a lot more pleased with our tackling than I was earlier in the year. Hopefully, that will continue.”

The Seminoles opened the campaign by allowing 40, 40 and 41 points to Union Local, Shadyside and River, respectively — all teams in the thick of the postseason race. After blanking Caldwell, 32-0, Monroe Central allowed 37 to another possible playoff squad — Fort Frye.

Although last week’s win was against a banged up Shenandoah squad, Circosta was pleased with the poise his team showed against the state-ranked Zeps.

”We played without three starters, too, and only dressed 19 kids,” Circosta noted. ”We don’t have a lot of depth, so the key to this last part of the season will be to stay healthy.”

Reaching the playoffs is the farthest thing from Circosta’s mind, but as the Seminoles enter the final three weeks they’re in the think of the Division VII, Region 27 postseason hunt.

Monroe Central (3-4) sits in ninth, almost a point behind River. The remaining schedule bolds well on paper for the Seminoles the rest of the way, but Circosta’s team might need some help to reach the postseason.

As it stands, it’s veteran coach thinks his team is playing its best ball now, boosted by an offense that’s seemed to find its footing.

Quarterback Ryan LaFollette has made the transition from wide out and has thrown for 775 yards, including a 303-yard effort vs. the Blue Eagles two weeks ago. LaFollette s also a threat to run. He’s rushed for 759 yards thus far, and has four 100-plus games to his credit, including a season-best 216 vs. Caldwell.

Circosta has also been impressed with the performances of receivers Cooper Rush, Zac Jones and Robert Bigler, along with running back Joey Wise and lineman Webb.

”They’re very balanced,” Barnesville’s first-year head coach Blake Allen said. ”They’re big up front and their quarterback is a heckuva player. He does a lot for them.

Like the Seminoles, Barnesville, too, faced a rugged slate. The Shamrocks’ five defeats have come at the hands of teams with a combined mark of 24-11.

Many of the Shamrocks have caught Circosta’s eye, including Cade Hannahs. The junior has rushed for 390 yards and four touchdowns and thrown for 457 yards and six more scores.

Injuries have bit Barnesville hard this season, but Allen said his team has been resilient and is starting to find itself on both sides of the ball.

”I think we’re getting better,” he said. ”I think our defense is getting better and we’re starting to tackle better.

”Offensively, we’re starting to find a rhythm. We’ve showed signs of improvement. The kids’ attitudes haven’t wavered. They come to practice working hard every day trying to get better on both sides of the ball.”

Jacob Gallaway is Barnesville leading receiver, with 14 catches for 208 yards.