Saturday, November 24, 2007

No. 3 James Monroe ends Wayne’s bid for repeat in Class AA

November 25, 2007
No. 3 James Monroe ends Wayne’s bid for repeat in Class AA

By Shawn Ross
For Sunday Gazette-Mail

WAYNE — After nearly a decade of postseason frustration, James Monroe finally earned a trip to Wheeling.

In their sixth trip to the Class AA semifinals, coach David Witt’s third-seeded Mavericks rode the legs of Ernie Tincher to the tune of 152 yards and two touchdowns en route to a 21-14 victory over No. 2 and defending state champion Wayne in the Class AA semifinals Saturday night at Pioneer Field.

James Monroe will take on top-ranked Bluefield in next weekend’s Super Six finals at Wheeling Island Stadium. The Beavers edged the Mavericks 14-7 on Oct. 26. That loss was James Monroe’s only defeat this season.

The Mavericks had been turned away five times in the semifinal round in the last decade. JM ended its season one game shy of the Class AA title game in 1998, 1999, 2002, 2005 and 2006.

“We’ve battled our butts off for daggone four years,” Witt said. “We told them we were going to come down here and battle our daggone butts off and we’d see what happened. [The team] deserves all the credit they can get.”

With a 15-point lead and a run-oriented offense, JM began to milk the clock in the fourth quarter. However, a Kisiel fumble killed what could have been a game-clinching drive at the Wayne 35 early in the quarter.

This time, Wayne (12-1) capitalized on Kisiel’s miscue with a seven-play, 67-yard drive that consisted of three impressive passes by Joey Ferguson.

Jeremy Maynard was on the receiving end of two passes. The first was a one-hander that accounted for 31 yards to set the Pioneers up at the JM 37. Ferguson found Maynard again on a screen pass that picked up 25 yards.

The third completion of the drive was the capper as Ferguson found Gilkerson from 20 yards out to slice the lead to 21-12. Since Jason Thompson missed the extra point on the Pioneers’ first score, they were forced to go for the 2-point conversion. Ferguson connected with Brandon Fletcher on a bubble screen to cut the lead to 21-14 with 8:26 left to play.

The Mavericks nearly iced the game with a minute left to play when Logan Ray attempted a 32-yard field goal. However, Ray’s attempt fell short and Wayne had one last gasp at defending its title. Ferguson found Maynard on an out route to move the ball to the 15, but John Ballengee intercepted Ferguson on the next play to seal the win.

“We talked about the fighting spirit,” Wayne coach Tom Harmon said. “The second half, we did come out and fight. The odds were against us at times, but when you play for Wayne, you put your whole heart into it.”

The Mavericks (12-1) appeared to put themselves behind the 8-ball on the first play from scrimmage when Nick Robinson fumbled at the Wayne 49-yard line.

However, the Pioneers’ Rodney Endicott was unable to hold on to a handoff on the ensuing play and JM recovered the loose ball at its own 44. From there, the Mavericks marched 56 yards in nine plays to take the early lead.

Not surprisingly, Tincher headed the single-wing rushing attack with 41 yards on just four carries on the drive. He turned in the score on a 17-yard jaunt to give JM a 7-0 lead after just five minutes of play.

JM entered the game with some uncertainty regarding its backfield as starters Taylor Robertson and Kisiel did not play offensively in the first quarter because of injuries sustained in the Mavericks’ 13-7 quarterfinal win over Magnolia a week ago. Although the duo accounted for nearly 3,000 yards during the regular season, their absence was alleviated by Tincher’s performance.

The Charleston Gazette
Charleston, WV


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