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Group A, Div. 3 Football: Bees hope no-huddle attack wears out JM

BY NATHAN WARTERS

As Brookville was reeling off wins en route to its second straight Group AA, Division 3 state championship game appearance, Bees coach Jeff Woody kept a keen eye on what was happening up the road here in Fredericksburg.

He didn’t have to boldly predict another Brookville–JM matchup in the championship game. It seemed bound to happen all along.

    DIVISION 3 FINAL

    James Monroe (12–1) vs. Brookville (13–0)

    WHEN: Saturday, noon

    WHERE: Williams Stadium, Liberty

    University, Lynchburg

    RADIO: A live audio broadcast is available

    on City Cable Channel 18.

The two schools have played against each other in three state title games dating back to 1996 and two since 2008, and they’ll take on each other again Saturday at Liberty University’s Williams Stadium in Lynchburg.

“I tell you what, it’s meant to be,” Woody said. “Every time I’ve been to a state championship game it’s been against coach [Rich] Serbay and James Monroe.

“Coach Serbay and I got to hang out a little bit together this summer at the [Virginia High School Coaches Association] all-star game picnic, and we talked about how crazy it would be if we got back to a state championship game again for round four.”

There’s a familiarity between the schools that is rare for a championship matchup.

“It’s two great football programs. It’s definitely exciting to be playing James Monroe again. And if you’re playing James Monroe again, you know you better step up,” Woody said. “I expect a good hard-nosed, fundamentally sound, quality football game.”

The frequency of the matchup in the state title game only confirms the strength of both programs, Serbay said.

“I told [Woody], who is a friend of mine, just how amazing our two programs are. We both play in tough districts. We both play in tough regions, and yet we’re playing for the fourth time in the state championship game,” Serbay said.

“I told him that’s a tribute to you as a coach and a tribute to my assistant coaches, because I’m not taking any credit. My assistant coaches are what makes this team tick.”

What’s in store for James Monroe (12–1) when it faces off against Brookville? Well, the Bees (13–0), who have won 27 straight games, aren’t much different than they were last year when they beat the Yellow Jackets 34–33 on an Alan Gutierrez field goal.

But their hope is for their no-huddle spread offensive attack to give JM’s ultra-fast and hard-hitting defense too many options to cover.

Woody first employed the no-huddle spread three years ago when he noticed a change in the athletic makeup of his team.

Gone were power football staples like 6-foot-6 quarterback Logan Thomas, 6–5 wide receiver Corby Weiss and behemoth offensive lineman Devin Bolling. The new breed of Brookville player included tailbacks and wide receivers that Woody likes to call “waterbugs” that were all capable of taking a small gain and turning it into a big one.

Wide receiver Hilson Atkins, who has 13 rushing touchdowns and nine receiving touchdowns, represents the new breed of players at Brookville, a group that also includes playmaking tailbacks Jamal Payne and Anthony Calloway and wide receiver Benjamin Hogg.

By making an offensive switch three years ago, the Bees played up to their biggest strength on offense, 6-foot, 170-pound quarterback Kendall BeCraft, who has a great aptitude for the game and a strong arm.

BeCraft is 45–4 as a starter and is approaching 10,000 passing yards for his career.

“With a quarterback who knows what to do with it when he sees specific defenses, it was the best case for us to go no-huddle,” Woody said. “And as we’ve done it the past three years, we’ve experienced a lot of success. Our kids don’t know how to huddle now.”

Thomas, who is in his second season as Virginia Tech’s starting quarterback, passed for 393 yards and four touchdowns in the Bees’ 50–46 loss to JM in 2008. He said he can only imagine what he could have done in a spread attack like Brookville runs now.

“We had talent all over the field. We had speed all over the field. I would have been excited to see what we could have done [in a faster-paced offense],” Thomas said. “It would have been fun to watch us play. I know it was fun to watch us play anyway, but it would have been very fun to watch us play with all the things they do.”

Defensively, Brookville dominated the line of scrimmage last year with the likes of defensive lineman Korren Kirven, who missed last year’s JM game with an injury and eventually made his way to Alabama on scholarship.

The Bees have a smaller, yet faster, defensive lineup this year. Despite the changes, Brookville’s defense has been very effective, allowing only 11.1 points per game.

“I feel like we’re a lot faster, but we’re still physical,” Woody said. “We’ve been able to stop offenses and give our offense good opportunities as a result.”

Nathan Warters: 540/374-5442

nwarters@freelancestar.com

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