Will it be the Mavericks' turn?
By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
LINDSIDE — All the teams that have tried to pound out a running game against the James Monroe Mavericks eventually come face to face with the hard fact — it’s hard to make yards against the Mavericks’ veteran line, which has given up an average of 149.1 yards per game in the regular season.
The opposition has been forced to pass, and there they meet up with Josh White and Company, a defensive backfield that has picked off 26 passes and racked up, collectively, around 200 tackles.
The defense has been the catalyst that has kept James Monroe in close ballgames and boosted them into the Class AA championship bracket.
White is a 5-foot-8 senior, playing Friday in his last high school football game. But quarterbacks have learned that he can’t be picked on, nor can his teammates on the defensive side of the ball.
“I think the defense has really stepped up,” White said Tuesday before practice. “We lost some big players last year — and I think we’ve had some guys step up and fill their shoes, really (well). John Ballengee has been playing excellent as a sophomore.
“I just think we’ve played with a very high level of intensity. I hope we can keep it up.”
White has broken up six passes and intercepted three others this season. He has also come up with seven tackles for loss and 84 total stops. His stat line includes three fumble recoveries and blocking a kick.
But like all the Mavericks, he doesn’t want to talk about individual accomplishments. Asked about how the team has been preparing for their title clash with Bluefield, White began by crediting the Mavs’ defensive coaches.
“Coach (Steve) Newberry does a real good job with the D-backs and the linebackers, and Coach (Ted) Ballard does an excellent job with the line,” he said.
“And just from earlier experience, from playing Bluefield earlier this year, we pretty much know what their speed is, know how good athletes they are. And we just learn from that.”
The one loss on the Mavericks’ schedule, to Bluefield over a month ago, taught the team a lesson, White said.
White said, “Really, you don’t think about it much at this point. I mean, it’s in my head; it’s in everybody’s head. But, at this point, games in the regular season and even earlier in the playoffs don’t matter. It’s just this one game — it’s a one-game season.”
“It just kind of reminded us, we can be beat. After you go so long without losing, you kind of forget that, and that served as a good reminder that we can get beat. I think that’s why we made it to the state championship this year.”
Sizing up the task against Bluefield, he said, “They’ve just got real good speed with a bunch of players, and that’s what makes them hard to stop. They’ve got some big people, and they’re fast, and they’re strong, and they don’t give up.”
He’s never given up on title dreams, either. This year’s championship trip is “what you’ve dreamed of since you were a little kid,” he said.
Now that dream is a reality, and he has a different perspective on what it has taken to get there.
As a freshman first putting on the purple and black, White said, “It was like a dream come true. I mean, I’ve grown up and watched Nick Newberry and Matt Ballengee, Ben Thornton, Roger Dunn, Ben Preston, Mac Preston. I’ve never missed a James Monroe football game in my life. I love it. And whenever I came up here in my freshman year, it was like Christmas. It was perfect.
“And now here I am, a senior, looking back, knowing what all (those guys) went through. I’ve seen a lot of teams lose to Bluefield in the playoffs — some heartbreakers. I just hope we can go out and get the job done. For them.”
The Bluefield Daily Telegraph
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