The Gridiron Blog brings you the scores, stats and stories from Fredericksburg-area high school football.
State final coverage (game story): JM’s championship dreams are dashed
PHOTO GALLERY: View more pictures from the game.
Related: Late drive dooms Jackets
Clay’s take: Editorial cartoonist reacts
BY TAFT COGHILL JR.
LYNCHBURG—As the final seconds ticked off the clock yesterday at Williams Stadium, James Monroe football players and their throng of supporters looked on in disbelief.
The Yellow Jackets had steamrolled their way to 13 straight victories, but this ending didn’t follow the script.
Brookville sophomore kicker Alan Gutierrez booted a 27-yard field goal with 35 seconds left to send the Yellow Jackets to a 34–33 defeat in the Group AA, Division 3 state championship game at Liberty University.
Afterward players and coaches sobbed as they were comforted by family members.
“We worked hard all season for this since Aug. 1,” senior wide receiver Kasine Conway said. “For it to end like this, with a one-point loss, it’s hurtful.”
The Yellow Jackets (13–1) were left with the disheartening setback because of five turnovers and a slow start.
Still, they rallied from two 17-point first-half deficits to take a 33–24 lead on Eric Nelson’s 1-yard touchdown run with 3:47 left in the third quarter.
They were holding on to a 33–31 advantage throughout the fourth quarter, but were unable to put the finishing touches on a fifth state title in school history.
One of their best chances to do so came on backup running back Adrian Boone’s 25-yard run with 5:09 remaining, but the play was called back because of a holding penalty. Four plays later, the Yellow Jackets were forced to punt from their own 3-yard line.
“That would’ve iced the game,” Serbay said. “For them to make that call, it was a terrible call. It happened right in front of me. A game like this, you let the kids determine the game.”
The Yellow Jackets had opportunities to do that, as well.
But the Bees (14–0) made the plays when it counted most.
They were faced with fourth-and-9 with 1:23 remaining when quarterback Kendall Becraft connected with wide receiver Guy Morris for a 15-yard completion on the left sideline to the JM 19.
The Bees were then able to set up the winning field goal.
“I wouldn’t say that won the game by itself,” Morris said of his big catch. “But it kept us alive.”
The Yellow Jackets used a 41-yard kickoff return by A’darius Brown to begin a potential game-winning drive at their own 45.
But an illegal shift, followed by a false start, cost them 10 yards.
Quarterback DeMontaz Brown was then intercepted by Morris one play after a 19-yard completion to A’darius Brown to seal the defeat.
“Devastating,” JM senior running back Ethan Preston said of the setback.
Preston rushed for 1,907 yards and 33 touchdowns this season, but lost three fumbles yesterday.
His first miscue happened on the first play of the game, leading to Becraft’s 13-yard touchdown pass to Chris Anderson.
Preston also lost a fumble on the final play of the third quarter, and didn’t return to the game. He said he suffered a head injury on the play, and “after that, I was done.”
“Everybody has mixed emotions right now,” senior linebacker Daniel Armstead said. “We don’t want to blame the loss on anyone, because we lost as a team. There’s nothing we can do about it.”
The Yellow Jackets did do something about their early deficit. They trailed 17–0 less than eight minutes into the game.
When they were trailing 10–0, Brown was intercepted by Tyler Buford, who then raced to the Yellow Jackets’ 26-yard line. Three plays later, Brookville running back Michael Carwile scored on a 5-yard touchdown run.
“Our kids were ready to play, but after that first fumble, holy moly, they just dropped their heads right to their doggone chests,” Serbay said. “One fumble took the steam out of us.”
Brown scored on a 1-yard quarterback sneak to pull the Yellow Jackets within 17–7 with 9:32 left in the second quarter.
After Brookville responded with an 89-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Mark Boyd, the Yellow Jackets fought back harder.
Eric Nelson capped a 13-play, 48-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown plunge. Yellow Jackets junior defensive end Roy Robinson then made perhaps JM’s play of the game when he grabbed a one-handed interception as Becraft attempted a screen pass.
Robinson rumbled to the Bees’ 8-yard line to set up Preston’s 1-yard touchdown run on a fourth-down sweep to pull the Yellow Jackets within 24–20, 17 seconds before halftime.
“One of the best moments I’ve had in football,” Robinson said of his pick. “But I’d trade that for the win any day.”
Robinson and the Yellow Jackets nearly had the victory, too. They opened the second half with Armstead recovering teammate David Dit’s short kickoff at Brookville’s 35.
Conway then scored on a 33-yard pass from DeMontaz Brown with 10:30 left to give the Yellow Jackets their first lead of the game, 26–24.
James Monroe’s two-point conversion attempt failed, but Armstead was able to recover another short Dit kickoff on the ensuing play. The Yellow Jackets didn’t score afterward, but the sequences, combined with Brookville running three plays in the second quarter, led to JM controlling the clock for 31:30 compared with 16:30 for the Bees.
“If someone had told me James Monroe would’ve had the ball as long as they did and only scored 33 points,” Brookville coach Jeff Woody said, “I would’ve laughed at you.”
Woody did enjoy the last laugh. He was a player when the Bees lost 7–0 to JM in the state championship in game in 1996. He was a coach when the Yellow Jackets defeated Brookville 50–46 for their fourth state title in 2008.
Woody said he doesn’t take any extra pleasure in earning his first state title at JM’s expense.
As for the Yellow Jackets, they have to look forward to next year. They have many key players returning, but are also losing 20 seniors.
“This was their time,” Serbay said of his players. “This was their year. That’s what makes this so sad.”
Brookville 17 7 7 3 — 34
James Monroe 0 20 13 0 — 33
Br-C. Anderson 13-yard pass from K. Becraft (A. Gutierrez kick)
Br-A. Gutierrez 35-yard field goal
Br-M. Carwile 5-yard run (A. Gutierrez kick)
JM-D. Brown 1-yard run (D. Dit kick)
Br-M. Boyd 89-yard kick return (A. Gutierrez kick)
JM-E. Nelson 1-yard run (D. Dit kick)
JM-E. Preston 1-yard run (kick failed)
JM-K. Conway 33-yard pass from D. Brown (pass failed)
JM-E. Nelson 1-yard run (D. Dit kick)
Br-M. Boyd 55-yard pass from K. Becraft (A. Gutierrez kick)
Br-A. Gutierrez 27-yard field goal
First downs12 16
Rushing yardage22-43 48-128
Passing yardage130 174
Rushing: James Monroe—Ethan Preston 23–86, TD; DeMontaz Brown 15–42, TD; Kasine Conway 2–4; Eric Nelson 4–3, 2TD; A’darius Brown 2–(-2); Adrian Boone 2–(-5). Brookville—Michael Carwile 13–63, TD; Anthony Caloway 2–4; Kendall Becraft 7–(-24).
Passing: James Monroe—DeMontaz Brown 10–19–2 142, TD; A’darius Brown 1–1–0 32. Brookville—Kendall Becraft 10–18–1 130, 2TD.
Receiving: James Monroe—A’darius Brown 5–79; Kasine Conway 4–50, TD; Robert Lawrence 2–45. Brookville—Mark Boyd 2–58, TD; Chris Anderson 3–32, TD; Guy Morris 3–24; Hilson Atkins 1–8; Michael Carwile 1–8.
Taft Coghill Jr.: 540/374-5526