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Friday Night Football Feature: JM–Chancellor matchup a test of stingy defenses

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When the Chancellor and James Monroe football teams face off in a Battlefield District clash tonight, points and yards are expected to be hard to come by.

The Chargers and Yellow Jackets boast two of the top defensive units in the Fredericksburg area.

And those who have seen the defenses play up close say there is one key factor they have in common: speed.

A JM win tonight would give the Yellow Jackets (9–0, 6–0 Battlefield) the district title outright. A Chancellor victory would earn the Chargers (7–2, 6–1) a share of the crown.

“I think it’s going to be a low-scoring game and I think it’s going to go down to the final two minutes,” said JM coach Rich Serbay, whose team defeated Chancellor 49–7 last season. “That’s just my opinion because both defenses are so good.”

Statistics back up Serbay’s claim.

Chancellor allows 8.5 points per game (6.0 in district play). The Chargers, who allowed 18.8 points per game in 2011, have scored six defensive touchdowns.

The Yellow Jackets allow 8.2 points per contest (9.3 in the district) and have scored five defensive touchdowns.

Courtland coach J.C. Hall has faced JM and Chancellor this season. The Cougars defeated the Chargers 8–7 in overtime but lost to the Yellow Jackets 10–7.

Hall said the only way to nullify the quickness of both units is to “meet force with force” and hopefully wear them down. Even then, it’s a tall task, he said.

“When you look at Chancellor, they’re really quick up front and their linebackers get to the football very well,” Hall said. “When you look at James Monroe, they’re very similar. They’re not as big up front, but they’re just as quick.”

Neither unit appears to have a glaring weakness to attack, Hall said. Chancellor’s front seven has caused headaches for opponents all season, and North Carolina State recruit Chris Holmes anchors the secondary.

Serbay said he has a quartet of linebackers in Sean Bates, Tevin Brooks, Eric Nelson and Tony Scott that is faster than any unit he’s had in his tenure.

The Yellow Jackets also boast freshman nose guard Antonio Wynn–Coleman, who has helped make up for the loss of 2011 All-Area performer Ryheem Perrin, a junior who has missed the season because of disciplinary issues.

The Yellow Jackets are also without All-Area cornerback Julian Bumbrey, who was lost for the season with a torn ACL while playing quarterback.

Several other key players from last season’s team that reached the Group AA, Division 3 state championship game have graduated.

“Griff, he’s got us right,” Nelson said of defensive coordinator Kenton Griffin. “We lost some key players, but we’ve had some guys step up to make up for that.”

Griffin said he has motivated his players by telling them they’re being relied on to win games. The Yellow Jackets have struggled to score on offense this season. Sophomore Jay Scroggins, who entered the season third on the depth chart, has started the past five contests.

“We’ve just got to step up,” Nelson said. “Griff tells us all the time, ‘We don’t have [former standout wide receiver] A’darius Brown. We don’t have Kasine Conway. We don’t even have Julian no more.’

“So when we had that defensive meeting, we looked each other in the eyes like, ‘You know what it’s going to come to and we’re going to have to step up.’”

The Chargers have stepped up, too.

Serbay said they’re effective because “there are no heroes.”

Chancellor coach Bob Oliver, who coordinates the defense, said this year’s unit is special because it always plays as a tight-knit group.

And just like the Yellow Jackets there are always several defenders swarming to opposing ball carriers.

“We’ve had other defenses in years past, back in the ’90s, with some big star players on it,” Oliver said. “But this year our defensive guys do a good job supporting each other and playing as 11 guys. I can’t stress enough the team aspect of it. They’re all unselfish and they really get after it.”

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