COCONUT CREEK — After losing 34-6 last week to Coconut Creek in an exhibition game, Monarch had something to prove in the Broward County National Football Showcase against one of the best teams from Georgia.
Sparked by Clayton Cannon’s huge all-around performance and Antonio Ward’s 45-yard fumble return for a touchdown with less than three minutes to go, Monarch rallied past Cedar Grove (Ga.) 50-42 at Coconut Creek High School on Thursday night.
Cannon put the finishing touches on the comeback by recovering quarterback Elliott Colson’s fumble with 1:26 remaining to seal the victory.
“We wanted to represent Florida and Broward County tonight,” said Monarch coach Calvin Davis. “This was huge for us. We asked to be in this showcase so the fact that we were given an opportunity and we came out and did what we were supposed to do, you can’t ask for anything more.”
Cannon had a game for the ages with 139 yards receiving and two touchdowns, while also returning the opening kickoff for a 90-yard score and setting up his own touchdown catch with a 48-yard kickoff return.
“After last week, Cannon had a fumble, he had a drop, he made some mistakes… he came to me and said ‘Coach it won’t happen again’ and this week he played awesome,” added Davis.
With Monarch trailing 42-30 to start the fourth quarter, AJ Hairston found Cannon for one of his two TD receptions, on a 20-yarder, to cut the lead to 42-38 after the two-point conversion.
Leonard Ester then recovered the onside kick, putting the Knights back in business at the Cedar Grove 36. Six plays later, Malik Kelsey scored from 1-yard out to give the Knights the a 44-42 lead.
Cedar Grove looked like they had one final chance to win the game, but Colson fumbled the ball and Ward scooped it up for the touchdown and the eight-point lead.
Monarch received one of its 14 penalties on the night, forcing them to try a two-point conversion at the 18-yard line. The double pass failed, giving Cedar Grove one final shot.
Cedar Grove was on the move and in Knights territory at the 28, but Cannon stripped the ball to cap his memorable night.
“I didn’t have a good game against Creek and wasn’t feeling myself. I went home, cried it out and came to practice this week and worked hard,” said Cannon. “I saw Colson coming and knew he liked to cut in, so I made sure to get my arm in there, snatched the ball, it came out and that was game over.”
Hairston, the Sun-Sentinel’s player of the year last season and UMass commit, finished with 232 yards passing and four touchdowns. Jabari Brady had four catches, including a 21-yard TD reception, while Samari Reed added three catches, including a 7-yard score.
Colson, a UCF commit, finished with 186 yards passing and five touchdowns for Cedar Grove, hooking up with Andrew Leslie three times on passes of 6, 25 and 16 yards.
“That was a great game. The kids fought hard, but we have a long way to go and improve our discipline and get better, but after last week, we’ll take the win and continue to get better,” added Davis. “Games like this against a team like Cedar Grove, who won state championships in the past two years, it catapults us to another level. It gets us to where we knew we should be, but now we can continue to build, make some improvements and go from there.”