An unsettling defeat in a low-scoring slugfest in the first round of the Region 3B playoffs last fall has been bothering James Monroe football coach Rich Serbay for an entire year.
After a 34–0 Battlefield District shutout victory over host Caroline on Friday night to conclude the regular season, Serbay and the Yellow Jackets will get an opportunity to make amends for that 7–3 defeat to Thomas Jefferson–Richmond.
James Monroe (7–3, 5–1 Battlefield) secured a share of the district title with the win over the Cavaliers (1–9, 1–5).
The Yellow Jackets are the No. 2 seed in the region this season and will likely host Central Woodstock (4–6) in the opening round next Friday night.
Serbay would prefer to see Thomas Jefferson again, but the Vikings were moved to Class 2 after Virginia High School League reclassification.
“That loss to Thomas Jefferson has been gnawing at me since last year,” Serbay said. “I wanted to get back in the playoffs and I hoped to get a shot at them. Unfortunately, they’re in a different class. So we’re going to take it out on whoever shows up Friday.”
James Monroe wasn’t in peak form against the Cavaliers, but it was good enough for their fifth consecutive victory.
Senior running back Jawuan Fauntleroy rushed for 68 yards and two touchdowns on five carries. Junior quarterback Aidan Ryan passed for 100 yards, including a 38-yard scoring pass to wide receiver Tyler Whitman.
The Yellow Jackets led 21–0 at intermission. JM’s defense held the Cavaliers scoreless despite Caroline running 65 plays compared to its 37.
The Cavaliers controlled much of the clock with 51 rushes, but they went for an average of 2.5 yards.
“It always feel good to be productive on defense and get stops over and over again,” said JM freshman linebacker Jordan Hall, who had a big game.
Caroline was paced by senior dual-threat quarterback Sivon Pleasants, who rushed for 98 yards on 23 carries.
Pleasants slung a 65-yard touchdown pass to a wide open Damien Smith late in the second quarter, but it was called back because of holding and JM held on to its 21–0 lead.
The Cavaliers marched inside JM’s 10 on their opening possession but the drive was derailed by a chop block on second-and-7 from the JM 8. The Yellow Jackets’ defense forced an incompletion on fourth-and-12 from their 13.
“We know we’ve got to win the penalty battle. It’s one of the six phases of the game we tell our kids we’ve got to win,” Caroline head coach Doug Allison said. “The easiest way to win a game is not to lose it. We’ve got to work hard not to lose it.”
The Cavaliers’ season comes to an end. The Yellow Jackets are now aiming to make a deep postseason run.
Serbay said the Yellow Jackets, who amassed 11 penalties for 119 yards against the Cavaliers, must clean that up going forward.
Fauntleroy said he and his teammates also need to learn from their experience in Richmond last season. Serbay believes the Jackets are trending in the right direction.
“Our throwing game needs to get a little bit better, but overall I’m real happy,” Serbay said. “I’m very proud of the kids. We turned this program around from [3–8 in 2018] to 7–3 and I’m very happy with that.”
JM—Jawuan Fauntleroy 3-yard run (Tomas Moreno kick).
JM—Dimario Brooks 26-yard run (Moreno kick).
JM—Tyler Whitman 38-yard pass from Aidan Ryan (Moreno kick).
JM—Fauntleroy 16-yard run (Moreno kick).
JM—Deonte Curry 18-yard run (kick failed).
RUSHING: James Monroe—Jawuan Fauntleroy 5-68, 2 TDs; Aidan Ryan 7-54; Deonte Curry 4-44, TD; Antawan Yates 6-35; Dimario Brooks 3-34, TD; Dean Holland Jr. 1-15; Tahj Smith 1-(-1). Caroline—Sivon Pleasants 23-98; John Chapman 18-42; Justin White 4-8; Chester Monroe 1-0; Brandon Arzuaga 2-(-3); Dalton Mauck 3-(-15).
PASSING: James Monroe—Ryan 4-9-0, 100 yards, TD; Smith 0-1-0. Caroline—Mauck 2-8-0, 31 yards. Pleasants 1-6-0, 5 yards.
RECEIVING: James Monroe—Tyler Whitman 1-38, TD; Brooks 1-24; Curry 1-24; Trevor Gleason 1-14. Caroline—Dominique Washington 3-36.