The Gridiron Blog brings you the scores, stats and stories from Fredericksburg-area high school football.
Player of the Week: Bates carries on family tradition for Jackets
BY JIM SWING
Before he knew he’d be James Monroe’s starting running back—before the season even started—Sean Bates liked to go back and watch vintage film of his father, Eric, in a starring role.
Eric Bates was a running back for the Yellow Jackets from 1985–87 and gained 3,035 yards as a senior—the second-best single-season total in Virginia High School League history.
Rich Serbay, in his 28th season coaching JM, says Eric Bates is the best running back the Fredericksburg area has ever seen.
So when Sean sat down to watch old film of his dad, it lit a flame.
“I think it inspired him a bit,” Serbay said.
A few months later, he’s found himself in a position he didn’t know he would be in before the season began. Bates is now James Monroe’s starting running back, and his 228 yards and two touchdowns against Caroline last Friday earned him Free Lance–Star Player of the Week honors.
Bates started the season at outside linebacker, where Serbay said he “made their defense look real good” because of his hitting abilities.
But in week four, starting running back Adrian Boone was injured when he caught a helmet in the ankle. Bates was next in line.
“I knew it’d be tough when we had Adrian go down and then we had [quarterback Julian] Bumbrey go down,” Bates said. “So I just tried to step in and do the best I could.”
In just three weeks, Bates has been the ideal stand-in. He’s racked up 391 yards and four touchdowns to help the Jackets (6–0, 3–0) remain the only undefeated team in the Battlefield District.
“Bates is hot as a pistol right now,” Serbay said.
Bates realizes the similarities with his father; people remind him all the time. It’s their ability to find a hole and then hit it. Serbay says Eric had more speed, but Sean runs just as hard.
“He was always the hard runner running for the end zone, and that’s how I feel when I’m running the ball,” Bates said.
While Bates excelled on defense, he prefers to be on the opposite side of the ball dictating how many points his team puts on the board.
People ask him all the time who, other than his father, he would compare his running style to. Right now he doesn’t have an answer; just like his running game, he’s working on it.
“I kept saying every day in practice, ‘Man he’s getting better,’” Serbay said. “Now that he’s gotten his chance that ‘Wow’ has turned into ‘Oh my God, he’s good.’”
Last Saturday, Bates attended a game at Division II Chowan (N.C.) University, where his father once played, and where he hopes to play after in graduates this June.
Soon, Boone will return from his ankle injury and challenge Bates for the starting job. It’s Bates’ job to lose, but Serbay said anyone vying for the position has his work cut out.
“It’s been a dream of mine to run the ball for JM,” Bates said. “And to be able to come in on such short notice and be able to do all this gets me really excited for each week.”
Jim Swing: 540/374-5440
This season’s Free Lance–Star football players of the week:
Week 1: Javonte Latney, Massaponax RB
Week 2: Tyus White, Brooke Point WR
Week 3: Kwesie Dadzie, North Stafford RB
Week 4: Cody Goode, F’burg Christian LB
Week 5: DaeSean Hamilton, Mountain View WR
Week 6: Da’Shawn Harris, Stafford RB
Week 7: Sean Bates, James Monroe RB