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HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Painful memory drives Cougars

Courtland football coach J.C. Hall has a rule when it comes to moving on from painful defeats.

Hall’s objective is not to dwell on the setbacks forever, so he allows himself a day or two to lament.

Hall needed every bit of that time to recover from the Cougars’ 27–20 loss to Sherando last November in the 4A–North Region semifinals.

“I usually try to give it 24 to 48 hours,” Hall said. “That one was more towards the 48 than the 24.”

Hall and his charges look to use that heartbreaking loss as motivation for the upcoming season. The Cougars return three 1,000-yard rushers and a standout quarterback as they appear to have the pieces in place for another postseason run.


This week, The Free Lance–Star and are unveiling our picks for the area’s top five high school football teams.

Sunday: No. 5 Eastern View

Monday: No. 4 Mountain View

Tuesday: No. 3 James Monroe

TODAY: No. 2 Courtland

Thursday: No. 1

COMING THURSDAY: The Free Lance–Star’s annual preview edition

Courtland, which opens its season Friday at Massaponax, is the No. 2 team in The Free Lance–Star’s preseason power poll.

“We had expectations last year and it didn’t go our way,” Courtland junior running back George Cheetham said. “We’ve got to learn from that. We’ve got to do whatever we can to make sure what happened last year doesn’t happen this year.”

The Cougars (10–3 last season) would like to repeat most of what occurred in 2013. They won 10 consecutive games after an 0–2 start.

They became the first team in Fredericksburg-area history to have three 1,000-yard rushers.

But all those positives were clouded by one forgettable sequence against Sherando. The Cougars were driving with the score tied at 20 late in the fourth quarter.

Running back Victor Greene attempted to flip the ball to Cheetham on a counter play, but the Warriors’ defensive end foiled those plans by hitting Greene, resulting in a lost fumble. Sherando then marched for the game-winning touchdown.

Hall said his aim was to melt the clock, kick a field goal and escape with a 23–20 victory. Instead Sherando moved on and defeated Salem in the regional championship game the following week before losing to Dinwiddie in the state title contest.

“It’s motivation simply because we know we’re there and we’ve still got work to do,” Hall said. “We still have to prove ourselves. When you’re so close to something and you haven’t reached the pinnacle, obviously, it can go one or two ways. For us right now, we’re still hungry.”

This season, the Cougars will count on 1,000-yard rushers Cheetham, Greene and workhorse Anton Jenkins, who led the way with 1,254 yards and 27 touchdowns a year ago.

Hall is also encouraged by the development of junior quarterback Jabari Allen. Hall said Allen wasn’t entirely comfortable as the signal-caller last season and had contemplated a move to wide receiver.

But Allen decided to remain behind center.

“Coming into my second year at quarterback, I’m feeling a lot more comfortable,” Allen said. “I can make better reads and get my guys open more.”

Allen will look to get the ball in the hands of big-play receivers Nick Grant and Jeremy Hokenson. There’s also tight end D.J. Adams.

One potential area of concern for the Cougars could be their lack of depth. Allen, Cheetham, Greene and Jenkins will all play both ways.

Cheetham (5-foot-8, 165 pounds) said he’s looking forward to his role as a defensive end after playing linebacker last season.

“I feel like I can help the team more at d-end because I’m closer to contact,” Cheetham said. “I can get off the edge and make a play.”

If all goes according to plan, the Cougars will have an opportunity to make amends for the miscue that left them devastated last fall.

Allen said it took him “a couple of months” to get over the defeat. Cheetham said he constantly replayed the fumble in his head before he realized that was counter-productive.

“I’ve come to learn that you can’t stay on that play because if I keep playing that over and over, I’m going to keep remembering it,” Cheetham said. “It’s a new season, so that play is dead.”


Taft Coghill Jr.: 540/374-5526