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No. 4 Jackets uphold family tradition

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Football teams often call themselves families when they talk about their togetherness on and off the field.

For James Monroe and its veteran coach, Rich Serbay, those words have special significance, especially this season.

Eight of the players on the Jackets’ current roster have relatives who played for Serbay during the past 30 years. During that time, JM won four Group AA, Division 3 state titles and seven Region I championships.

“I think it’s come full circle here,” said former standout Julian Bumbrey, who played wide receiver and defensive back for the Jackets when Serbay first arrived back in 1983. “A lot of the guys on this team have a connection to the past.”

One of those guys is Bumbrey’s son, Julian, who plays multiple sports at JM as his father did. He set a school season record with five interception returns for touchdowns last year during the Jackets’ run to the Division 3 title game.

This year, Bumbrey figures to play an even bigger role in their bid to make it back to the playoffs. In addition to playing cornerback, he’ll run the offense until regular quarterback DeMontaz Brown recovers from an offseason knee injury.

“I know my dad was a good athlete when he played here. It makes me proud, and I want to make him proud,” the younger Bumbrey said. “A lot of the players on this team are like that.”

Brown is another of those players. His father, Ricardo Edwards, and two uncles, Colby Edwards and Trell Parker, were all starters on Serbay’s 1996 state championship team that went 13–1.

Parker has a son, Tevon Lucas, who is a promising defensive back on the current Jackets squad.

“We’ve all talked about the connection,” said Brown. “It motivates us knowing about the success [our relatives] had. It’s a long chain of athletes here, and we want to follow in their footsteps.”

Serbay is well aware of the connection and has seen the chain grow during his tenure as coach. He can recall facts and statistics about his former players and teams, and doesn’t hesitate to make comparisons.

“I’ve coached in five decades and seen a lot of changes,” said Serbay. “But I’ve always taken pride in the legacy and the tradition here. I’ve met a lot of good people and it really has been like a family.”

Ask almost any of JM’s former or current players what it’s like to play for Serbay, and they have a similar response.

“Coach Serbay had a lot of passion for the game back then and he still does,” said Eric Bates, who starred for JM’s 1986 and ’87 state title teams and is the school’s all-time rushing leader. “He was definitely able to motivate us.”

Bates’ son, Sean, is carrying on the family tradition as a starting linebacker this season. Serbay likes his potential and can see the similarities between father and son.

“Both were very similar in size and both are very fast,” Serbay

said. “Eric had an uncanny ability to make tacklers miss, while Sean has that defensive swagger. They’re both real competitors.”

“My dad and I talk a lot about JM football,” Sean Bates said. “He tells me about things that happened while he was here, and I want to try and measure up to them. I think we’re going to do really well this year and surprise some people.”

With a gifted set of skill players that includes Bumbrey and receivers She’Mar Ellis and Darryl Dyson, as well as an aggressive defense that returns six starters, the Yellow Jackets have the potential to make it happen.

Besides Bates and the all-state Bumbrey, the defense should get a big lift from returning inside linebacker Eric Nelson. His dad, Eric, played defense on the 1996 state championship team.

“We’ve got the pieces,” Serbay said. “The memo doesn’t change much for us. We’ve got some talented athletes and a good defense. We just need to stay healthy and develop our lines.”

It’s a familiar storyline, but one that has spelled success for Serbay and the program during the past 30 years. Although the names and faces keep changing, the talent continues to flow, and the family remains strong, ready to embrace new challenges.

Steve Franzello: 540/374-5440