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Monroe came out on the wrong end of a 52-49 football game at Toledo in a battle of what look to be two of the top 2A teams this fall.

The Dragons took the field without sophomore Brody Ballard, their second-yard starting quarterback, and they had a chance to win but saw a fourth-down pass inside Toledo’s 10-yard line in the closing minutes fall incomplete.

Monroe, the 2017 state champion and a 2018 semifinalist, walked away with validation that it could be one of the best 2A teams at the end of the season.

“It gives you a feel for where you’re at,” Dragons coach Bill Crowson said. “You look at Toledo on the field and they’re very talented. They’re legitimately a top-five kind of club. It helps our kids understand we belong in that group.”

Monroe (2-1) opened the season with a 44-16 home win against Sheridan before Ballard missed the next two contests – 27-14 home win versus Grant Union and the Toledo game – with a hip injury. Ballard is now back on the field.

Austin Teran, a junior running back and wide receiver, played in place of Ballard and put up good numbers. He passed for three touchdowns and ran for another against Toledo. Crowson says Teran “did a really good job.”

Monroe running back Zach Young, one of the top 2A athletes in the state, piled up yards as he has throughout his career. The senior rushed for 277 yards and had 54 yards receiving with four total touchdowns.

Young says Teran got the nerves out of the way versus Grant Union (0-3) and was ready to go against Toledo (3-0).

“I think he did a great job. He played with a lot confidence, made a lot of good plays with his feet and through the air,” Young said. “I was proud of him. It’s not a position he’s used to playing at the varsity level.”

The Dragons aren’t new to missing key players. Young was out three straight games last season due to injury.

Teammates filled in then, moving positions to make the pieces fit, as they did the past two weeks with Ballard out.

“It kind of solidifies us down the road if we need something different,” Crowson said. “In the big picture you end up a better ball team than you were before.”

Monroe dropped from first to fifth in the 2A coaches poll after the loss. Toledo jumped from third to first in this week’s poll.

The Dragons go to Willamina on Friday before opening Special District 3 play at Creswell next week. Toledo travels to Central Linn (1-2) on Friday.

Crowson said his team competed against Toledo but didn’t defend well.

Monroe has a strong set of skill-position players for a small school.

Teran, fellow junior Dylan Irwin and sophomore Trent Bateman spell Young in running the ball. Ballard has a firm grasp on the offense in his second season at quarterback. Young also plays slot receiver and has lined up at tight end for a few plays.

“When teams are going to go ahead and key on me that just leaves windows open for other guys, and we’ve got a ton of other playmakers that are going to step up this season,” Young said. “We’re pretty dangerous offensively, but if we can clean up the defense a little bit I think we’ll be in pretty good shape.”

With Ballard sidelined, Young carried a heavier load than normal against Toledo with 24 rushing attempts.

The Dragons have hoped to lessen his load and involve others more to reduce the risk of injury to their star. That’s still the plan going forward.

Young worked in the weight room during the offseason to get stronger, expand his mobility and flexibility and to keep his joints healthy.

“He’s one of those guys, he seems to find the football. So it’s hard not to give it to him,” Crowson said. “He’s healthy and feeling good, and hopefully this week we’ll balance things back out a little bit better.”

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