Monroe continues strong performance since COVID-19 shutdown with victory over South Brunswick

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Monroe Township High School running back Tyler Scott picks up a first down during the team's game against South Brunswick on Nov. 13 in Monmouth Junction. Scott had a touchdown reception in Monroe's 35-10 victory over South Brunswick.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Monroe Township High School quarterback Aidan McLaughlin rolls out to his right during the team's game against South Brunswick on Nov. 13 in Monmouth Junction. McLaughlin had four total touchdowns to help Monroe defeat South Brunswick 35-10.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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South Brunswick quarterback Vincent Jairdullo throws a pass to wide receiver Damarion Potts for a first down during the team's game against Monroe on Nov. 13 in Monmouth Junction. South Brunswick is 4-3 on the season.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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South Brunswick High School wide receiver Damarion Potts catches a pass from quarterback Vincent Jairdullo for a first down during the team's game against Monroe on Nov. 13 in Monmouth Junction.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Monroe Township High School running back Tyler Scott picks up a first down during the team's game against South Brunswick on Nov. 13 in Monmouth Junction. Scott had a touchdown reception in Monroe's 35-10 victory over South Brunswick.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Monroe Township High School quarterback Aidan McLaughlin rolls out to his right during the team's game against South Brunswick on Nov. 13 in Monmouth Junction. McLaughlin had four total touchdowns to help Monroe defeat South Brunswick 35-10.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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South Brunswick quarterback Vincent Jairdullo throws a pass to wide receiver Damarion Potts for a first down during the team's game against Monroe on Nov. 13 in Monmouth Junction. South Brunswick is 4-3 on the season.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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South Brunswick High School wide receiver Damarion Potts catches a pass from quarterback Vincent Jairdullo for a first down during the team's game against Monroe on Nov. 13 in Monmouth Junction.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF

The Monroe Township High School football program came back from its two-week shutdown from COVID-19 ready to make a statement in the Big Central Football Conference and in Middlesex County.

It began on Nov. 9 when the Falcons recorded their first victory over New Brunswick High School since 2009 with a 28-14 win over the Zebras and followed that up with another strong performance on the gridiron four days later against South Brunswick High School.

Having not beaten the Vikings since 2013, Monroe Coach Dan Lee saw his senior-led team roll to a 35-10 victory over South Brunswick to improve to 4-1 on the season and 2-0 since coming back from its COVID-19 shutdown.

“Anytime you beat a team for the first time in seven years, it’s a big deal,” Lee said on the victory over South Brunswick.

“This was a big win for our program. This game was all about our seniors playing their hearts out. I can’t express how proud I am of them for sticking with us and my coaching staff and believing in the process. There’s no playoffs, but we’re definitely looking for redemption and some respect in the county.”

Senior quarterback Aidan McLaughlin continued his stellar fall on the gridiron for Monroe with a four-touchdown performance in the victory over South Brunswick, throwing three touchdown passes to give him 12 on the season.

McLaughlin got the ball rolling for Monroe on the team’s second offensive possession of the game, completing a 58-yard pass to Anton Updale that drove the Falcons down to the South Brunswick seven-yard line. It led to McLaughlin scoring his only rushing touchdown of the night three plays later on a four-yard score to put the Falcons up 7-0.

The senior quarterback notched his first passing touchdown of the night on the team’s next possession by converting another huge third down play to give Monroe a 14-0 lead.

McLaughlin threw a jump-ball pass down the left sideline where his tight end Kyle DeGraw made a tremendous play by reaching over a South Brunswick defender to catch the ball and then ran up the field for a 68-yard touchdown.

“(McLaughlin) threw me a great ball and I just had to make a play,” DeGraw said on his fourth touchdown catch of the season.

“I know when the ball is in the air that it’s mine. I reached over to grab it and the next thing I know is that I had to get to the end zone. I just kept running as fast as I could to get in there.”

It was DeGraw’s fourth touchdown reception of the season and the first of his two scores in the contest.

The senior tight end barreled into the end zone for a two-yard rushing touchdown for Monroe’s final score of the night in the third quarter.

DeGraw racked up 112 yards receiving on four catches. Updale led Monroe with nine receptions on the night for 153 yards.

Monroe took a 14-0 lead going into the second quarter before South Brunswick got on the board thanks to a 30-yard field goal by Jai Patel that cut it to a 14-3 contest with 6:48 to go in the first half.

The Falcons answered right back with an 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that saw McLaughlin find senior wide receiver Jagger Agnew for his third score of the evening.

Faced with a 3rd down and 20 from the South Brunswick 38-yard line, McLaughlin aired out a beautiful pass up the seam to Agnew to put Monroe up 21-3 with 1:09 to go in the first half.

“I felt the pressure coming and I knew if I put the ball out there that Jagger (Agnew) would get it,” McLaughlin said. “He did it and I’m very proud of him. He’s honestly one of the best players in the county and I’m very happy to have him on my team.”

Agnew also racked up an interception in the first half for the Falcons.

McLaughlin led Monroe on a stellar nine-play, 94-yard scoring drive to begin the second half to record his fourth and final touchdown of the contest.

The senior quarterback threw a quick swing pass to his running back Tyler Scott, who managed to reach the ball over the pylon for a 10-yard touchdown to extend the Monroe lead to 28-10.

Scott now has seven total touchdowns this fall for Monroe and rushed for 90 yards in the victory over South Brunswick.

McLaughlin threw for 370 yards in the victory to reach over the 1,000 yard passing mark for the season, now standing at 1,316 yards this fall.

All 14 of McLaughlin’s touchdowns this fall have occurred during the last four games, helping Monroe win each of those contests for a four-game winning streak.

“I’m very happy with the players I have surrounding me,” McLaughlin said. “We have a lot of playmakers that make a lot of big plays. I just give them the ball and they do their thing. It’s very exciting to see. I’m very happy I have such good chemistry with great football players.”

Senior Majid Howard-Baker recorded the only South Brunswick touchdown of the night in the fourth quarter with a 42-yard dash to the end zone for his second rushing score of the season.

The Vikings drop to 4-3 with the loss and finish out the season on Nov. 20 against Ridge High School.

Monroe will host Sayreville War Memorial High School to close out the 2020 season next Friday night as well.

It will be another “big game” Lee said for his team, who has an opportunity to finish out the season on a five-game winning streak.

McLaughlin said winning out would mean a lot to him and his teammates who have set out this year to change the culture and the perception of the Monroe football program.

“Since the 2009 state championship team, we haven’t been a good program, so this year we really focused on changing the culture of Monroe,” McLaughlin said.

“Our group has stayed together since freshman year. We have great chemistry. We have proven to the younger guys that we’re a good team with great players. We came into this year hungry and knew we were a good team. It’s a very proud feeling doing what we’re doing.”