RIDGEWAY—The high-water mark for James Monroe’s football team probably came near the muddy, soggy 2-yard mark at Magna Vista High School midway through the fourth quarter of the 3A East state semifinals on Saturday. Two yards away lay a touchdown which would have put the Yellow Jackets up by 17 points, and probably have sealed a spot in a fourth straight state championship game.
But instead of a clinching touchdown, there was a fumble, a 98-yard Magna Vista drive for one touchdown and a second Warrior march for the winning score with one minute, 32 seconds remaining.
Instead of wrapping it up there at the 2, James Monroe boarded its charter buses for the long ride back to Fredericksburg, its season ended two wins short of a state title.
Magna Vista mounted a stirring 10-point comeback in the last half of the fourth quarter, rallying to top the Yellow Jackets (11–3) 41–38.
The Warriors (13–1) trailed 38–28 and JM had first-and-goal at the 3 with just less than seven minutes left. They forced a fumble on a running back–quarterback exchange on second down and turned the momentum—and the game—in their favor.
“That play down there hurt us bad,” said Jackets senior quarterback Jay Scroggins. “I truly believe that’s the play we lost the game.”
Abrian Pena recovered the turnover for Magna Vista—it was one of three fumbles lost for JM—and the Warriors reeled off a 98-yard scoring drive. The march included third-and-10 and fourth-and-10 conversions on quarterback scrambles by Shoalin McGuire. The quarterback capped the possession with an 18-yard touchdown pass to T’Mahdae Penn and Magna Vista trailed 38–35.
The Warriors then forced a James Monroe punt, and took the lead with a five-play march from the JM 41.
Jock Hairston scored the go-ahead touchdown with a 9-yard run with 1:32 remaining. It was the last of Hairston’s 32 carries; he finished with a game-high 248 yards.
“That gives us a three-score lead, and maybe we probably should-have, would-have held on,” James Monroe coach Rich Serbay said. “But they made the plays at the end of the game and they deserved to win.”
The fumble hurt, Scroggins said, but it was one of several chances JM wasted to take a decisive lead.
Magna Vista—with Hairston the primary weapon—raced to a 21–7 lead in a back-and-forth first quarter.
But the Jackets answered with their own running game and senior Vincent Eura. He keyed a 64-yard drive to cut the Warriors’ advantage to 21–14 at the end of the first period and—after a bad snap stopped a Magna Vista punt—JM’s Jewan Davis had an 11-yard scoring run to tie the game.
The Jackets stopped the Warriors without a first down on three straight possessions and took the lead on Eura’s 4-yard run with 2:34 left in the half. Eura finished with 132 yards on 18 carries.
But Magna Vista responded with a 73-yard kickoff return by Traveon Redd for a score and the game went to the half tied.
“We had all the momentum,” Serbay said. “They make a great runback. Instead of us going into the halftime with a lead, it’s tied. That’s probably the biggest thing in the game, maybe bigger than the fumble.”
David Larme hit a 23-yard field goal late in the third quarter to put JM up 31–28, and a beautifully executed fake reverse opened a 37-yard run for Eura and the Jackets were up 38–28.
James Monroe even recovered a loose ball on the ensuing kickoff and marched from the Warriors’ 41 to first-and-goal at the 3. Eura ran for a short gain on first down, and on second down JM prepared to hand the ball off again, hoping to punch the ball in for the clincher.
“We’re not supposed to fumble that ball; it’s a simple handoff,” Serbay said. “Both of those are seniors and they should make that handoff. There’s no way they fumble that handoff.
“But they did, and that’s the way it goes.”
Not that Serbay blamed his players—“There’s 48 kids who did everything right; there’s no one to blame but me,” he said.
But that didn’t ease the sting for JM players, distraught over a season that didn’t end the way it hoped.
“It hurts real, real bad,” Scroggins said. “I know we should have won that game. I know we should be playing next week, going back to Liberty.”
“I feel lousy,” Serbay said. “We’ve been to three and a half state championship games, and we haven’t been able to come up with the right formula. We’re losing close games to good football teams.”
MV-R. Gravely 18-yard pass from S. McGuire (R. Evans kick)
JM-D. Leacock 72-yard pass from J. Scroggins (B. Lawrence kick)
MV-J. Hairston 6-yard run (R. Evans kick)
MV-S. McGuire 1-yard run (R. Evans kick)
JM-J. Scroggins 1-yard run (D. Larme kick)
JM-J. Davis 11-yard run (D. Larme kick)
JM-J. Scroggins 1-yard run (D. Larme kick)
MV-T. Redd 83-yard kick return (R. Evans kick)
JM-D. Larme 23-yard field goal
JM-V. Eura 37-yard run (D. Larme kick)
MV-T. Penn 18-yard pass from S. McGuire (R. Evans kick)
MV-J. Hairston 9-yard run (kick failed)
Rushing: Magna Vista—Jacquez Hairston 32-248, 2TD; Shoalin McGuire 11-55, TD; Traveon Redd 8-4; Xavier Savannah 1-(-1). James Monroe—Vincent Eura 18-132, TD; Jewan Davis 4-43, TD; Jay Scroggins 12-12, 2TD; Keyshawn Johnson 1-2; Deanta Nelson 1-2.
Passing: Magna Vista—Shoalin McGuire 9-19-2 103, 2TD. James Monroe—Jay Scroggins 13-27-1 214, TD.
Receiving: Magna Vista—Rodarius Gravely 5-53, TD; T'Mahdae Penn 2-35, TD; George Ramey 2-15. James Monroe—Darius Leacock 4-120, TD; Kendrick Wilkins 5-56; Keyshawn Johnson 4-37.