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Group AA, Div. 3 Football: It’s Round 4 for Yellow Jackets, Bees
THREE WERE CHARMS. WILL FOURTH
BY NATHAN WARTERS
THE FREE LANCE–STAR
The storied state championship game rivalry between James Monroe and Brookville began only 16 years ago, but it has grown to legendary proportions in a short time.
The Yellow Jackets (12–1) and Bees (13–0) renew their series today in the Group AA, Division 3 championship game at Liberty University’s Williams Stadium in Lynchburg.
GROUP AA, DIVISION 3 FINAL
James Monroe (12–1) vs. Brookville (13–0)
WHEN: Today, noon
WHERE: Williams Stadium, Liberty University, Lynchburg
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~ Watch live at vhsl.playonsports.com/events/47209 or listen to a live audio broadcast on City Cable Channel 18.
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This will be the fourth championship game meeting between the schools, making it the most-common title game matchup in all VHSL divisions since statewide playoffs began in 1970.
The previous three meetings were decided by a touchdown or less. The memories of those games are still fresh for many of the coaches and players from past and present.
JAMES MONROE 7, BROOKVILLE 0
FROM THE FREE LANCE–STAR:
There was nothing complicated about the play. It was a straight-forward run by Shannon Wallace.
YELLOW JACKETS RB TRELL PARKER
Trell Parker was on the sideline when Shannon Wallace ran 36 yards for the game-winning touchdown in James Monroe’s 7–0 win over Brookville in the 1996 Group AA, Division 3 state championship game.
Had a giant mud pile not flown into his face on the previous play, Parker might have been the one to run to pay dirt. But even now, Parker doesn’t think that way.
“It didn’t bother me one bit,” Parker said when asked if he regretted not being the one to make the big play. “I was just happy to be winning the state championship. That was just the way the ball bounced that day, but that was fine with me.”
Parker rushed for 2,760 yards that season and had 96 yards on 29 carries in the title game against the Bees.
He had to come out of the contest to get mud cleaned from his face, and Wallace entered the game and scored the winning touchdown on his only play.
The Yellow Jackets held on to win on a miserable day in which both teams combined for 11 punts, six fumbles and only 263 yards of total offense.
“It wasn’t much celebration on the field, that’s for sure. We were happy to hurry up and get off the field and get in the locker room and get dry more than anything,” Parker said.
Parker is now coaching a local youth football team, the Fredericksburg Yellow Jackets, and his oldest son, sophomore Tevon Lucas, plays cornerback for James Monroe.
Parker said he and a group of friends and family will make the trek down to Lynchburg to watch the fourth installment of the James Monroe–Brookville state championship rivalry.
“It’s definitely good for both schools,” Parker said. “I mean, we have the edge right now at 2–1 and we would like it to be 3–0. Hopefully we get this next one and go up 3–1 on those guys, but they’re definitely a state championship caliber team every time we’ve seen them. It’ll be fun, that’s for sure.”
BEES’ WR JEFF WOODY
Jeff Woody has a unique perspective on the James Monroe–Brookville state championship rivalry. Not only has he coached in two of the games, but he started at wide receiver and cornerback against the Yellow Jackets in 1996.
He still has vivid memories of the first time JM and Brookville played with a title on the line 16 years ago. The Yellow Jackets won that game, 7–0, in sloppy conditions at Spotsylvania High School.
“It was miserable. Absolutely miserable,” Woody said. “One of the worst days of my life, having to lose that football game in dramatic fashion like we did.”
It seemed nobody could gain traction on the muddy field that day. Well, except for JM running back Shannon Wallace, who scored the game-winning touchdown on a 36-yard run in the third quarter.
“I think I caught six passes in that game. I might be wrong,” said Woody, who actually had three catches. “It was tough to execute anything in that type of weather.
“There were all these small dirt pellets all over the place. I think they maybe fertilized the field, and in some spots on the field there was standing water probably 2 to 3 inches deep, so it was difficult to do anything on the offensive side of the ball for both teams,” he said.
Brookville failed to score despite driving inside the James Monroe 10-yard line three times. The Bees missed two field goals.
“I think one time the snap got back to the holder, and as he put the ball on the block, the block shot out from underneath of it because the water was too deep,” Woody said. “The block was floating.”
Woody wonders what might have been had the weather conditions allowed both teams to run their offenses how they wanted, but he doesn’t hesitate to give credit to the Yellow Jackets for pulling off the win.
“It’s something I put to rest a long time ago. I’m not trying to seek vengeance for that game in ’96. A lot of time has past,” Woody said. “I try to remember that season with fond memories and with the utmost respect for James Monroe.”
JAMES MONROE 50, BROOKVILLE 46
FROM THE FREE LANCE–STAR:
Who says defense wins championships?
The James Monroe High School football team dashed that old theory yesterday with a breathtaking offensive display in a 50–46 victory over Brookville in the Group AA, Division 3 state championship game.
James Monroe senior quarterback John Jackson passed for 341 yards and a Virginia High School League state-playoff-record five touchdowns.
The Yellow Jackets and Bees combined for 96 points and 1,069 yards from scrimmage at Liberty University’s Williams Stadium, but an interception by JM senior DeVontae Atkins sealed the victory with 1:01 remaining.
“It’s indescribable,” Jackson said of winning the school’s fourth state title and the first by a Fredericksburg-area team since Washington & Lee in 2001.
—Taft Coghill Jr.
YELLOW JACKETS’ QB JOHN JACKSON
Whenever John Jackson sees Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas on television, he makes sure to tell his friends about the day he outplayed him on the biggest day of his career.
Jackson, who just finished up his career at Division III North Carolina Wesleyan, passed for 341 yards and a Group AA state-playoff record five touchdowns in a 50–46 win over Thomas’ Brookville Bees in the 2008 Group AA, Division 3 state championship game.
It was the best day of Jackson’s career, and not a day goes by that he doesn’t think about it.
“I just completed my fourth season [in college] and that game right there is probably the most exciting game I’ve ever been a part of,” Jackson said. “That’s been the best game of my whole football career, actually.”
Jackson had a field day against the Bees, who tried to single-cover the Yellow Jackets’ receivers the entire game.
“It was Cover-0 [defense] the whole game. It was easy and hard because in Cover-0 the throw has to be perfect because if not, there’s a man trailing behind him or right on his face,” Jackson said.
Jackson completed 14 of 26 passes and threw two touchdowns each to DeVontae Atkins and Greg Edwards. He didn’t throw an interception, unlike his counterpart Thomas, who threw two, including one at the JM 1-yard line with 1:01 remaining in the tight contest.
Jackson is proud he outplayed Thomas. He keeps up with the Virginia Tech quarterback as much as possible, sending him messages on Facebook and Twitter.
He said he’s excited about today’s fourth installment of the teams’ growing state championship rivalry.
“It’s all I’ve been talking about at school, and we’re ready to go to the game,” Jackson said. “After my exams, I’m coming home to Fredericksburg and we’re riding down to Lynchburg on Saturday morning. It’s real exciting. I feel like it’s a rivalry now.”
BEES’ QB LOGAN THOMAS
Logan Thomas, now a junior quarterback at Virginia Tech, has had some agonizing losses in his collegiate career—the Hokies’ overtime loss to Michigan in last season’s Sugar Bowl comes to mind—but none compare to the heartbreaking defeat he and Brookville suffered on Dec. 6, 2008.
Thomas, considered one of the top junior NFL quarterback prospects in the country, had one of his best days as a quarterback against the Yellow Jackets with 393 passing yards and five total touchdowns (four passing).
But he threw an interception at the JM 1-yard line with just over a minute remaining in the Bees’ eventual
50–46 loss in the Group AA, Division 3 championship game.
“It was the state championship game, last game of the season, last game of my high school career,” Thomas said. “In my opinion we were the much better team, but they were just better on that day. I think we would win nine out of 10 times and that was just their day. Yeah, I think that was the worst loss of my career. We lost to a worse team that prevented us from having a perfect season.”
The 6-foot-6 Thomas played quarterback, safety, cornerback and linebacker against the Yellow Jackets. He started at safety and then moved to corner on the opposite side of JM standout wide receiver DeVontae Atkins, who had 163 receiving yards, two touchdown receptions, a 77-yard punt return touchdown and the game-sealing interception with 1:01 left.
“I played safety for the entire first half and when we started getting crushed by [Atkins], they put me over on him in the second half and he had like two catches for 10 yards, and then they started throwing to the guy I was covering [before],” Thomas said.
It was a gut-wrenching defeat for Thomas, who has gone on to do big things at Virginia Tech. He still remembers his last high school game vividly.
“Are you kidding me? I remember that whole game like it was yesterday,” he said with a laugh.
BROOKVILLE 34, JAMES MONROE 33
FROM THE FREE LANCE–STAR:
As the final seconds ticked off the clock yesterday at Williams Stadium, James Monroe football players and their throng of supporters looked on in disbelief.
The Yellow Jackets had steamrolled their way to 13 straight victories, but this ending didn’t follow the script.
Brookville sophomore Alan Gutierrez booted a 27-yard field goal with 35 seconds left to send the Yellow Jackets to a 34–33 defeat in the Group AA, Division 3 state championship game at Liberty University.
Afterward, players and coaches sobbed as they were comforted by family members.
“We worked hard all season for this since Aug. 1,” senior wide receiver Kasine Conway said. “For it to end like this, with a one-point loss, it’s hurtful.”
The Jackets (13–1) were left with the disheartening setback because of five turnovers and a slow start.
—Taft Coghill Jr.
YELLOW JACKETS’ DB JULIAN BUMBREY
Most people didn’t know just how close James Monroe’s Julian Bumbrey came to blocking Alan Gutierrez’s game-winning field goal in last year’s Group AA, Division 3 championship game, but it was clear and in full color in a photo in The Free Lance–Star the next day.
In the picture, Bumbrey is stretched out and diagonal to the field, and his right hand is inches away from the ball.
“Actually, I tipped the ball with my finger,” Bumbrey said. “If I would have jumped a split-second sooner, I would have blocked it.”
Bumbrey came off the left edge untouched, and he barely missed saving the Yellow Jackets’ season. Instead, Gutierrez split the uprights on his 27-yard attempt with 35 seconds remaining, and Brookville hung on for a nail-biting 34–33 victory.
James Monroe fell behind by 17 points in the first quarter, but rallied and went ahead by nine points in the third. But the Yellow Jackets couldn’t hold onto the lead.
“I’ve gotten over it, but I still think about it every day,” said Bumbrey, now a senior.
Bumbrey said he and the team are eager to get the Bees back for last year’s heartbreaking loss.
Unfortunately for Bumbrey, he won’t be able to play. He suffered a torn ACL in Week 4 and was lost for the season.
Still, Bumbrey has remained a significant part of the team. He still attends practices and helps coach his teammates from the sideline on game days.
He’s just as invested in this state championship game as anybody else.
“We want revenge,” Bumbrey said. “We’ve got to win this.”
BEES’ PK ALAN GUTIERREZ
Alan Gutierrez was conflicted. He was counting on Brookville’s high-powered offense to get in the end zone, but he was also hoping for a chance to end the game himself.
“At first I wanted them to score so we could win, but then I was thinking that I wasn’t going to miss so I kind of wanted to take it,” Gutierrez said.
Gutierrez, the Bees’ sure-footed kicker, booted a 27-yard field goal with 35 seconds remaining to push Brookville to a 34–33 win over James Monroe in last year’s Group AA, Division 3 championship game.
Gutierrez, a native of Juarez, Mexico, remembers the elation of running onto the field after a nail-biting championship victory.
“It was the happiest moment of my life,” said Gutierrez, who has kicked three game-winning field goals in his career. “I couldn’t believe we were state champions. I always wanted to be a state champion and that day it became true.”
Gutierrez said he saw JM’s Julian Bumbrey coming off the edge in his periphery, but he was focused on putting the ball between the goalposts.
“Yeah, I saw [Bumbrey], and it was really close,” Gutierrez said. “But [the kick] was right in the middle. It was a perfect snap, a good hold and the wind wasn’t really blowing, which was perfect.”
Before the winning field goal, Brookville quarterback Kendall BeCraft turned around with his back to the field. He was too nervous to watch. Then he thought better of it, and watched Gutierrez win the game.
“I turned around and looked at the stands and said, ‘I can’t watch this.’ Then I remember I said, ‘Nah, he’s about to make history. I better watch it,’” BeCraft said. “I turned around and watched him kick it through the uprights. It was a good feeling.”
Gutierrez has made 11 field goals this season, including the game-winner Oct. 19 against Heritage, which is playing in today’s other Group AA championship game at Liberty University’s Williams Stadium.
Gutierrez is expecting another close game between the Bees and Yellow Jackets today.
“I think it’s going to be a really good game,” he said. “They’re trying to win, and we’re going to do our best.”