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The best of 2011-2012: For JM, North Stafford, titles were just inches away
Editor’s note: This week The Free Lance–Star recaps the top high school sports stories of the 2011–12 school year.
No. 5: Fredericksburg Christian continues its run as a basketball powerhouse.
No. 4: Colonial Forge’s wrestling team finishes back on top at the state tournament.
No. 3: After coaching Courtland’s boys to a state basketball title, J.T. Nino switches gears and leads the girls to the state final.
No. 2: Damion Carroll pitches King George into the state baseball playoffs—and himself into the pro draft,
No. 1: James Monroe and North Stafford come tantalizingly close to winning state football titles.
Coming up this weekend: The FLS boys and girls athletes of the year
BY TAFT COGHILL JR.
Rich Serbay replays several moments from the 2011 Group AA, Division 3 state championship game in his mind over and over again.
Joe Mangano said he’s watched the replay of the controversial ending to the Group AAA, Division 5 semifinals “close to 100,000 times.”
Serbay’s James Monroe football team lost to Brookville 34–33 on a field goal with 35 seconds left to deny the veteran coach his fifth state championship.
Mangano believes his North Stafford squad earned the right to play for the school’s first state championship, but the Wolverines were ultimately denied in a 27–26 overtime loss to Phoebus.
The heartbreaking way those two seasons ended is The Free Lance–Star’s No. 1 story of the 2011–12 school year.
“It plays back to me a lot,” Serbay said. “I often think: ‘I’d like to get those last three minutes back. Maybe I could’ve done something different.’”
Serbay said James Monroe cornerback Julian Bumbrey told him he was so close to blocking Alan Gutierrez’s 27-yard field goal that he felt a bit of the ball’s leather on his fingertips.
There was also a fourth-and-9 play Brookville converted on its final drive that still haunts Serbay.
As for Mangano, he’s had a difficult time moving past the official’s ruling that quarterback Austin Grebe didn’t cross the goal line on an overtime two-point conversion attempt that would’ve won the game.
“It should be over and done with and you definitely have to move on at some point,” Mangano said. “But it’s a tough pill to swallow. There’s no doubt about it.”
Mangano has peered over YouTube clips of the play from several different angles. He’s yet to be convinced that Grebe didn’t cross the goal line.
He said he last viewed the play in March or April, and is now focused on the upcoming season.
The Wolverines return 30 lettermen, including Virginia Tech recruit Anthony Shegog and wide receiver Brandon Ravenel, who holds several Division I scholarship offers.
“My wife told me one good thing that will come out of this is the kids will be hungry for the next 12 months,” Mangano said. “We got a taste of a nice playoff run and we want to get back. It’s rejuvenated the whole program.”
James Monroe’s program hasn’t needed much rejuvenation lately.
The Yellow Jackets are perennial contenders in the Battlefield District and Region I. Serbay expects the 2012 season won’t be much different.
Bumbrey (an all-state selection last season) and quarterback DeMontaz Brown return.
They’re hoping next season can ease some of the pain of 2011, when JM rolled to a 13–0 record before its season ended bitterly.
“We’ve got all the skill and speed we need to be successful,” Serbay said. “Our desire is to get to Game 11. If we get to Game 11, you never know what can happen.”
Taft Coghill Jr.: 540/374-5526