The King George football team was in prime position to earn a Battlefield District home victory against James Monroe Friday night.
The Foxes were ahead by eight points with less than nine minutes remaining. Their defense had limited the Yellow Jackets to no second-half points or first downs.
They were facing fourth and 4 from the JM 44 and likely to go for it.
But after a third-and-20 pass that quarterback Charles Mutter completed for 16 yards to Gabe Aley, the junior signal-caller was wobbly.
He went to the ground and stayed down for approximately 20 minutes before he was hauled away on a stretcher.
The Foxes and their home crowd was left stunned. The Yellow Jackets pounced. James Monroe recorded a safety with 3:02 to go in the game and then Aidan Ryan returned the ensuing kickoff 69 yards for a touchdown to help the Yellow Jackets escape with a gritty 22–21 victory.
Afterward, all thoughts were on Mutter, who gave his fans and teammates a “thumbs up” as he was taken away.
“I think it obviously [affected the team],” King George head coach Vern Lunsford said. “They were worried and concerned about Charles. They love Charles. But I thought they played hard. We just made a few mistakes we can’t make when we have a chance to put the game away.”
Lunsford said he would immediately head to the hospital to check on Mutter’s status. The Brooke Point transfer was putting together quite a performance before his injury. He finished the game 15 of 19 for 168 yards and two touchdowns.
His 11-yard scoring strike to Chris Cox—the pair’s second touchdown hookup of the game—gave the Foxes (3–3, 1–1 Battlefield) a 14–13 lead with 8:17 to go in the third quarter.
King George increased the advantage to 22–21 on Aley’s 2-yard run with 11:20 remaining in the game.
The Yellow Jackets (3–3, 1–1) were showing little signs of life.
“They stuffed us in the second half,” JM head coach Rich Serbay said. “They took away our entire offense, so basically what it boiled down to was defense and special teams.”
After Mutter went out with 8:58 to go, the Foxes punted. The Yellow Jackets were stopped but got the ball back after a bad snap led to a King George fumble that defensive lineman Rashon Whittaker returned 20 yards to the King George 30.
The Yellow Jackets thought they scored, but Tahj Smith’s 35-yard touchdown pass to Dimario Brooks was called back because of offsetting penalties.
On fourth and 3 from the 12, JM running back Jawaun Fauntleroy was stopped for a 5-yard loss with 3:53 remaining.
The Foxes took over at their own 17 with backup Cox in at quarterback. Aley lost four yards on first down and another bad snap led to an 11-yard loss.
King George running back Javon Campbell was tackled in the end zone for a safety on third-and-25 from the 2 to pull the Yellow Jackets within 21–15.
Ryan then stepped up with his heroics and kicker Tomas Moreno converted the 35-yard extra point after a JM 15-yard penalty to provide the final margin.
“I saw open field. I saw people blocking,” Ryan said. “I knew it was down to it, so I had to make a play.”
Added Serbay: “Any time Aidan Ryan’s got the ball, Aidan Ryan is dangerous.”
It’s the third straight one-point game the Foxes have been involved in. They lost 29–28 to Chancellor two weeks ago and defeated Washington & Lee 21–20 last week. They host undefeated Eastern View next Friday.
The Yellow Jackets host Spotsylvania.
“I’ve never won or lost a game like this, with a safety and a kickoff return by our best player,” Serbay said. “It’s unbelievable. My God, that’s something you can only make believe is going to happen.”
KG—Chris Cox 65-yard pass from Charles Mutter (Ryan Kuberick kick).
JM—Jawuan Fauntleroy 6-yard run (Tomas Moreno kick).
JM—Fauntleroy 20-yard run (kick failed).
KG—Cox 11-yard pass from Mutter (Kuberick kick).
KG—Gabe Aley 2-yard run (Kuberick kick)
JM—Aidan Ryan 69-yard kickoff return (Moreno kick).
RUSHING: James Monroe—Jawuan Fauntleroy 11-51, 2 TDs; Aidan Ryan 11-40; Deonte Curry 1-10; Dimario Brooks 1-(minus-6); Tahj Smith 3-(minus-15). King George—Gabe Aley 7-33, TD; Javon Campbell 15-29; Charles Mutter 7-18; Chris Cox 5-2; Team 2-(minus-31).
PASSING: James Monroe—Aidan Ryan 3-7-0, 43 yards; Trevor Gleason 1-1-0, 38 yards; Smith 1-6-1, 0 yards. King George—Mutter 15-19-0, 168 yards, 2 TDs; Cox 1-3-0, 8 yards.
RECEIVING: James Monroe—Brooks 3-68; Curry 1-7; Gleason 1-6. King George—Cox 4-82, 2 TDs; Aley 3-56; Campbell 3-14; Brody Newton 2-13; Von Whiting 2-7; Larry Rowe 2-4.