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FALL ALL-AREA: Football Coach of Year: Playing with an edge drove Serbay, JM

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Rich Serbay, The Free Lance–Star’s All-Area football coach of the year, had his Jackets fired up all season. (Phot by Reza Marvashti / THE FREE LANCE–STAR)



As the Brookville High School football team began to celebrate on the Liberty University field last Saturday, many James Monroe players wanted no part of watching.

The Yellow Jackets had just lost to the Bees for the second straight season in the Group AA, Division 3 state championship game.

Some JM players sobbed. At least one stormed to the locker room and didn’t accept his second-place medal and the school’s runner-up trophy.


    This week, The Free Lance-Star is unveiling our fall high school All-Area teams. Here is the schedule:

    Tuesday: Golf

    Wednesday: Cross country (Boys / Girls)

    Thursday: Volleyball

    Friday: Field hockey

    TODAY: Football All-Area team and

    coach of the year

    Sunday: Football player of the year

And one Yellow Jacket shouted expletives about a coach on his own team.

“I told you we’re an emotional team,” veteran coach Rich Serbay said of his Yellow Jackets afterward. “We show it. Our emotions are on our shoulders.”

Serbay told his players they should accept defeat in a more gracious manner. But in many ways, the Yellow Jackets were a reflection of him: They were mentally tough, but emotionally on edge.

The 2012 version of James Monroe may have embodied its head coach more than any other edition. The Yellow Jackets finished 12–2 and played for a state championship for the sixth time in his 28-season tenure.

They did so despite a litany of injuries and attrition.

And that’s why Serbay is The Free Lance–Star’s Coach of the Year for the second time in five seasons.

“A lot of teams don’t like us because we’re a very emotional team and we wear our emotions on our shoulder,” Serbay said last week. “That’s the way our kids play.

“Sometimes that can be misconstrued as unsportsmanlike, but it’s not. They’re excited. I tell my kids, ‘If you can’t play with emotion or you can’t play with enthusiasm, I don’t want you playing for me.’”

The Yellow Jackets lost their top two quarterbacks to injuries this season. Backup Julian Bumbrey, who suffered a torn ACL in the fourth game of the season, was also an all-state cornerback.

The Yellow Jackets were forced to turn to third-string signal-caller Jay Scroggins. Serbay lamented during the playoffs that if he knew Scroggins would’ve been so effective, he never would’ve risked an injury to Bumbrey at quarterback.

Rich Serbay was never afraid to display his emotions, if it could help his team. (Reza Marvashti / THE FREE LANCE–STAR)

Senior linebacker Tony Scott said the team’s 10–7 win over Courtland in the eighth game of the season was when it knew it could thrive with Scroggins.

“I think that’s when we really grew up as a team,” Scott said. “That was our first tough game and he had to play tough. He came in, led the team and we rolled with him ever since.”

James Monroe offensive coordinator Eddie Haynes called plays that suited Scroggins. He told him not to make mistakes and to rely on a stingy defense and an effective special teams.

Haynes, who has served two stints under Serbay, said the program’s ability to consistently adapt to its personnel starts with the head coach.

“He just does a fantastic job of putting the right people in the right places,” Haynes said.

Serbay focused on coaching James Monroe’s offensive line in the past. But this season long-time Fredericksburg-area assistant coach George Major took over that unit.

Serbay said Major is the only coach he could ever envision trusting with his offensive line.

With Major in tow, Serbay assisted young defensive coordinator Kenton Griffin.

However, Serbay acknowledges his biggest impact on the team was motivational. He said his motto before each season is: “Nothing is ever accomplished without enthusiasm.”

“I expect my coaches to be enthusiastic and they are to an extent,” Serbay said. “But I take care of the enthusiasm part. I’m the motivator. I talk to the kids before the game. I talk to them at halftime. I have a lot of good stories. I have a lot of things I can relate to the past.

“I think when I bring that stuff up kids understand about the pride, tradition and excellence associated with the JM football program. They know it’s true because it’s coming from me and I’ve been here 25 years.”

Scott said that energy from Serbay defines the Yellow Jackets. He said Serbay has drilled into his players that not many others believe in them, but they can still accomplish great things.

The Yellow Jackets feel that gives them an edge—even if it may boil over with a stadium full of people watching.

“They fought and battled all year because of their pride,” Serbay said of his players. “Sometimes it gets misconstrued. Sometimes it gets misinterpreted.”

Taft Coghill Jr.: 540/374-5526