NOKESVILLE—Even after his team built a three-touchdown lead in the first half of Friday’s Region 3B semifinal at Brentsville, James Monroe football coach George Coghill couldn’t seem to relax.
“I watched this team, and they were going to keep fighting,” Coghill said of the Tigers.
The Yellow Jackets (6–6) couldn’t have scripted a better opening sequence. On Brentsville’s first play from scrimmage, junior Romel Turner Jr. scooped up a botched snap and took off 37 yards for a touchdown. A Christian Hamm pick–six on the Tigers’ next possession made it 14–0 less than two minutes into the contest.
“I think we got a little too comfortable,” admitted Turner.
The Tigers seized on that complacency, reeling off 28 unanswered points en route to a 48–28 come-from-behind victory. Brentsville (10–2) will travel to Meridian in next week’s Region 3B championship game.
Aside from a long Portius Willis touchdown run in the second quarter, James Monroe struggled to establish its ground game. Its offense took another hit when Keshaun Wallace, the Yellow Jackets' primary short-yardage back, exited the game with an injury in the second quarter.
Brentsville got on the board on Bryce Jackson’s 14-yard touchdown run with 2:08 left in the half, then found an opening to get the ball back immediately.
“I’m the kind of coach where I read my team,” Brentsville’s Loren White said. “I saw a couple of their guys automatically bailing as soon as the ball was kicked, so we went onside, it was perfect and we got it.”
Two plays after recovering their own kick, the Tigers were in the end zone again courtesy of a 16-yard scramble from their sophomore quarterback, Caleb Alexander.
Then there was the issue of stopping Nico Orlando. The Yellow Jackets had done a decent job corralling Jackson, who came into the game nursing an injury. So White turned to Orlando, a sophomore, for a change of pace. It paid off.
Orlando broke free for 57 yards on his first carry and went on to score three second-half touchdowns.
“It opened right up, and I kept riding him,” White said of Orlando, who finished with 151 yards on seven carries.
Despite the deflating swing in momentum, James Monroe didn’t capitulate. On the opening play of the fourth quarter, the Yellow Jackets drew even at 28–28 on a 15-yard pass from Bryce Caldwell to Hamm, who found himself wide open off play-action.
But James Monroe fizzled from there, turning the ball over on downs and via interception down the stretch in the fourth quarter. The Yellow Jackets did themselves no favors by committing 11 penalties that set them back 90 yards.
After the game, Coghill told his seniors—many of them teary-eyed—that they were leaving the program in better shape than they inherited it.
“They’re changing the culture,” he said. “Hate to end this way, but that’s high school football.”
JM—RJ Turner Jr. 37-yard fumble recovery (Tanner Ribel kick).
JM—Christian Hamm 23-yard interception return (Ribel kick).
JM—Portius Willis 45-yard run (Ribel kick).
Br—Bryce Jackson 14-yard run (Wyatt Vonferhaar kick).
Br—Caleb Alexander 16-yard run (Vonderhaar kick).
Br—Jackson 11-yard run (Vonderhaar kick).
Br—Nico Orlando 37-yard run (Vonderhaar kick).
JM—Hamm 15-yard pass from Bryce Caldwell (Ribel kick).
Br—Orlando 6-yard run (Vonderhaar kick).
Br—Orlando 33-yard run (Vonderhaar kick).
Br—Jackson 87-yard fake punt run (kick fail).
RUSHING: James Monroe—Portius Willis 12-39, TD; Keshaun Wallace 9-39; Bryce Caldwell 2-(-13); Team 1-(-6). Brentsville—Nico Orlando 7-151, 3 TDs; Jackson 14-135, 2 TDs; Alexander 10-42, TD.
PASSING: James Monroe—Caldwell 14-30-1, 181 yards, TD; Brentsville—Alexander 6-13-2, 103 yards
RECEIVING: James Monroe—Hamm 5-40, TD; Tyson Taylor 4-58; Willis 2-55; Chase Wormley 3-18; Jabes Roundtree 1-7; Brentsville—Maddox Turley 3-57; Nicholas Griffin 1-15; Jackson Schneltzer 1-9.
Joey LoMonaco: 540/368-5045