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HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: JM overcomes top-seeded Lafayette

BOX SCORE

JAMES CITY—James Monroe coach Rich Serbay brought a little “Maury Magic” with him for Saturday’s 3A state quarterfinal against Lafayette. Apparently the handful of dirt Serbay said he carried from the Yellow Jackets’ home stadium is just as potent as it is in Fredericksburg, because JM played like a charmed team.

JM cornerback Ta’Von Lucas broke up a fourth-down overtime pass and James Monroe—led by quarterback Jay Scroggins’ fourth-quarter heroics—is in the state’s final four with a thrilling 34–28 win against Lafayette. The Jackets (9–4) will play at Heritage of Lynchburg next weekend, seeking a third straight state finals berth, this one perhaps the most unlikely of all.

“The most improbable and the most satisfying,” Serbay said. “I don’t know what to say. The kids don’t know how to quit. They just don’t know how to quit.”

James Monroe rallied to tie the game three times, including twice in the fourth quarter. Two key fumbles bounced the Jackets’ way for touchdowns. And JM survived a missed extra point in overtime.

It looked like magic a bit of that Maury Magic, perhaps.

“We knew we’d have to play all four quarters,” said Scroggins, who finished 32 of 45 for 326 yards with a rushing touchdown and two scores through the air. “We knew it would be a dog fight. But we played good today.”

Lafayette (12–1) rushed for more than 250 yards as a team and was forced to punt just once. But in overtime, the Jackets made four huge plays.

The Rams were stuffed for 4 total yards on three rushing plays, and then Lucas broke up a slant pass into the end zone on fourth down, and the Yellow Jackets erupted in celebration.

“I knew it was coming,” Lucas said. “I knew something was coming to my side. They had stayed away from me all game.”

James Monroe had taken the lead in overtime, starting with the ball first in the extra period and scoring on its third play. Antonio Edwards ran a simple stop route to Scroggins’ left, and the quarterback was on target with the throw. The extra point was missed, but JM survived thanks to the stand made by Lucas and the defense.

It wasn’t the first break for the Jackets.

The Rams—behind a strong wing-T attack led by Jahlil Green and Schekel Wallace took a 14–0 lead with three minutes, 10 seconds left in the second quarter. Wallace had the first touchdown (he scored three times in the game) and Brandon Villanueva–Pernell caught a 31-yard pass from Brendan McGinty for the second.

The Jackets had twice penetrated Lafayette territory, but both drives had stalled.

That changed late in the first half.

An interception by Jarmal Bevels with 1:28 left in the second set JM up at the Lafayette 40, and Scroggins hit three straight passes—two to Bevels and one to Edwards—and then scored on a 1-yard quarterback sneak to make it 14–7 at the halftime.

Bevels finished with 12 receptions for 151 yards and Edwards caught 10 passes for 77 yards.

On the first play of the second half, the Jackets got another big break.

Green was nearly wrapped up on a simple sweep from the Rams’ 20 when he was stripped of the ball. Gary Boxley recovered for JM and raced into the end zone for a 14–14 tie.

Lafayette regained the lead on the first play of the fourth quarter, capping a 13-play march another short plunge from Wallace.

Scroggins helped JM answer again.

He completed all five of his attempts on the ensuing drive, taking JM from its 25 to the end zone in less than 90 seconds. Kordell Boyd ran a streak up the seam on second down from the Rams’ 32. Scroggins took a big hit on the play, but only after he had dropped a perfect pass that found Boyd in stride and behind the defense.

Layette responded with its longest play of the day. Villanueva–Pernell returned the ensuing kickoff to the JM 25, and the Rams regained the lead eight plays later with another short run by Wallace and just 2:05 remaining.

Scroggins led the game-tying drive.

The quarterback operated methodically, starting from JM’s own 21 and working with a collection of slant routes and out patterns to move the ball downfield.

On third-and-5 with 50 seconds left, JM was at the Rams’ 15. Boyd was in the slot and ran a seam pattern. Scroggins’ pass was on target. But when Boyd came down with the ball on the 3, he fumbled and the ball rolled towards the end zone.

Bevels was there to pounce on it for James Monroe, falling on the ball in the end zone to tie the game, 28–28. Lafayette managed a last-second field goal at the end of regulation, but the 42-yarder was well short, sending the game to overtime.

Afterwards Scroggins looked tired but relieved. Lafayette sacked the JM quarterback eight times and the Jackets’ running game was not a factor, yet here the Jackets stood, a team playing like it had a little magic on their side.

“Yeah, I took a couple of hits,” Scroggins said. “But you’ve got to get up, shake it off and keep playing.”

Justin Rice: 540/368-5045

jrice@freelancestar.com

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