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Football: Group AA, Div. 3 Semifinal: Jackets prevail in 3 overtimes
By STEVE FRANZELLO
The James Monroe football players called it “Maury Magic.” Yellow Jackets coach Rich Serbay called it the biggest playoff win in JM history.
But no matter how you viewed Saturday’s thrilling 37–30 triple-overtime victory by JM over Kettle Run in the Division 3 state semifinals, it was a classic between two evenly matched teams.
SATURDAY’S LOCAL STATE SEMIFINALS
Group AAA, Div. 5
Lake Taylor 23, North Stafford 21
Group AA, Div. 4
Briar Woods 45, Courtland 15
Group AA, Div. 3
James Monroe 37, Kettle Run 30 (3OT)
Group A, Div. 2
Esses 40, John Battle 9
FOR LINKS TO ALL OF THE GAME STORIES: CLICK HERE
Trailing by 10 points midway through the fourth quarter, the Jackets stormed back behind sophomore quarterback Jay Scroggins and kicker David Dit to claim their second state semifinal win over the Cougars in as many years.
The comeback win earned JM (12–1) a trip to Lynchburg next Saturday for a noon rematch with Brookville in the Division 3 title game. It will be the fourth time the two teams have met for the championship.
Here’s what happened when JM played Brookeville in the title game last year
“It’s been a long, long road to get here, but a good one,” said Scroggins, who threw scoring passes in the second and third overtimes to help propel the Jackets to the emotional win.
Scroggins finished with 210 yards in the air against a physical Kettle Run defense that hounded him all afternoon and intercepted him three times. He also scored on a 1-yard keeper to put JM ahead, 10–7, at the half.
Dit’s contribution was just as big. The junior kicker booted three field goals (38, 41 and 23 yards) and also kicked two extra points from long range after JM was penalized.
Kettle Run kicker Evan Szklennik was just as impressive for the Cougars (11–3). The all-purpose junior kicked three field goals in the second half and also had two of the three picks off Scroggins.
“We weren’t playing well up front,” Serbay said. “[Kettle Run’s] offensive and defensive lines played great. We may have been overmatched, but you can’t measure what’s in our players’ hearts.”
Led by linebackers Tony Scott and Eric Nelson, JM’s hard-hitting defense held the Cougars’ explosive rushing tandem of Joshua Tapscott and De Jackson to just 52 combined yards in the first two quarters.
But in the second half, the two 1,000-yard runners began to assert themselves, especially Tapscott, who finished with 139 yards on 23 carries and scored three touchdowns.
Tapscott’s 56-yard burst gave Kettle Run its second lead of the game (14–10) three minutes into the second half. When Szklennik added a pair of field goals in the fourth quarter to put the Cougars up 20–10, it appeared that momentum had shifted their way.
But this is a battle-tested JM team that has had to overcome the loss of its starting quarterback and leading rusher. With their season on the line, the Jackets made the final minutes of the contest some of their most memorable.
With four minutes left in regulation, Dit connected on a 41-yard field goal and then Scott capped a 50-yard scoring march with a 3-yard sprint to pull JM to within one point, 20–19. Two minutes remained on the clock.
“Trust me,” Serbay said. “I thought about going for two points, but my coaches told me I was crazy. David was hot and we needed to be conservative. I’m glad we were.”
The first two extra sessions ended in a draw. In the first overtime, Dit and Szlennik connected on field goal attempts after both defenses rose to the occasion.
In the second overtime, Tapscott scored from 5 yards out on the Cougars’s second play and the large Kettle Run crowd began celebrating. But the celebration was short-lived.
JM responded on its next possession with a leaping touchdown catch by She’mar Ellis in the corner of the end zone to knot the score at 30–30.
“Before that play, I told Jay if the guy was on me, to just lob the ball and I would get it,” said Ellis, who had four catches for 126 yards. “I had to get it. It was a must.”
Two other “musts” followed, and the Jackets met the challenge both times.
In the first play of the third overtime, wide receiver Daryl Dyson hauled in a pass from Scroggins in the right flat and then scored to give JM the lead, 37–30.
After three running plays gained 7 yards, Kettle Run’s season came down to one final play at the 3-yard line. Cougars quarterback Carlos Vegerano took the snap and raced around right end. But the JM defense met him at the one and preserved the Jackets’ victory.
“We’ve been through so much this year and everybody counted us out,” said Scott. “But we play every game 48 minutes. It was Maury Magic today.”
Kettle Run 0 7 7 6 3 7 0 — 30
James Monroe 3 7 0 10 3 7 7 — 37
JM-D. Dit 38-yard field goal
KR-J. Tapscott 2-yard run (E. Szklennik kick)
JM-J. Scroggins 1-yard run (D. Dit kick)
KR-J. Tapscott 56-yard run (E. Szklennik kick)
KR-E. Szklennik 35-yard field goal
KR-E. Szklennik 37-yard field goal
JM-D. Dit 41-yard field goal
JM-T. Scott 3-yard run (D. Dit kick)
JM-D. Dit 23-yard field goal
KR-E. Szklennik 21-yard field goal
KR-J. Tapscott 5-yard run (E. Szklennik kick)
JM-S. Ellis 11-yard pass from J. Scroggins (D. Dit kick)
JM-D. Dyson 10-yard pass from J. Scroggins (D. Dit kick)
First downs11 8
Rushing yardage55-203 28-89
Passing yardage56 210
Rushing: James Monroe—Tony Scott 9-80, TD; Darryl Dyson 1-17; Eric Nelson 1-(-1); She’Mar Ellis 2-(-1); Adrian Boone 3-(-2); Jay Scroggins 12-(-4), TD. Kettle Run—Joshua Tapscott 23-139, 3TD; De Jackson 21-83; Tommy Oliver 1-4; Carlos Vegerano 10-(-23).
Passing: James Monroe—Jay Scroggins 10-22-3 210, 2TD. Kettle Run—Carlos Vegerano 5-11-1 56.
Receiving: James Monroe—She’Mar Ellis 4-126, TD; Jarmal Bevels 11-36; Matt Forjan 2-29; Darryl Dyson 2-15, TD; Adrian Boone 11-1. Kettle Run—Lucas Costa 2-30; Evan Szklennik 1-15; De Jackson 1-6; Tommy Oliver 1-5.
Steve Franzello: 540/374-5440