big men Friday night.
Jason Jackson threw for a first-quarter touchdown and exploited crushing blocks to run 84 yards for another as the James Monroe Mavericks protected their unbeaten record with a 17-14 squeaker over the Bluefield Beavers at Bluefield's chilly Mitchell Stadium.
James Monroe head coach David Witt said, “We knew that if we were going to be successful, we were going to have to run it right at them. We knew it wasn't going to be easy. ... Our kids just played their daggoned butts off.”
Bluefield coach Fred Simon said, “It was a good game to be a part of. It's just a shame somebody had to lose. We moved the ball pretty good; we just didn't get the ball into the end zone when we needed to at the end.”
The Mavericks' Mitch Tuggle picked off an Eric McClanahan pass on the third snap of the game, setting the visitors up for a 62-yard drive that ate up 7:15 on the clock. It ended with a 17-yard scoring pass from Jackson to senior Heath Mullins at the back of the end zone.
Mullins said, “We were running the football great. Coach called a great game. It opened up the passing game. And (the scoring pass) couldn't have come at a better time. They weren't expecting it.”
On its fourth and final possession of the first half, the Beavers returned to their passing attack. Mark Page picked up a pair of first downs in succession with clutch catches.
With just 10 seconds remaining, Maurice Jordan stretched out fully to grab a McClanahan aerial at the end line, dragging his feet at the last moment. The officials hesitated momentarily, looked at each other - and signaled touchdown.
The Beavers' 67-yard scoring drive gave them a 147-to-70-yard edge in offense at halftime.
After intermission, Bluefield tried for the second time in the game to convert a fourth-down play, and came up short in the arms of a gang-tackling Maverick defense.
Simon said, “Sometimes you get them, sometimes you don't. We felt like we could have gotten them. I felt good about it.”
On the next play, Jackson burst through a gaping hole on the right side of the line and outran the Beavers' secondary for his 84-yard score.
Bluefield answered quickly, keyed by a 31-yard completion to Jordan and a second-effort 20-yard run by Shawn Brooks, who then tallied a five-yard score setting up a 14-14 tie.
A huge special-teams play followed, with Mullins running back the kickoff 66 yards before he was forced out of bounds by Page. Four plays later, Dalton Pritt nailed a 30-yard field goal for the final score of the contest.
Witt said there was no concern over sending Pritt out to break the deadlock. “We've got all the confidence in the world in him,” Witt said.
“And he plays blocking back as well, and he did a heck of a job.”
“Special teams,” Simon said. “In these games, that can make the big difference.”
A nine-play Bluefield drive ended with Ben Preston sacking McClanahan on another fourth-down conversion attempt.
The Mavericks ran off the final 3:47 with Jackson and Andrew Robertson plugging away for 41 yards on the ground, including a fourth-down conversion.
Mullins said, “We started picking (the running game) up in the second half. ... Just pound the football. That's what we do best. Nothing's going to change that.”
Jackson and Robertson combined for 264 yards rushing for James Monroe. Jackson was 2-for-3 passing, while McClanahan completed 9 of 12 for 114 yards. Bluefield's leading rusher was Jonathan Payne, with 70 yards. Brooks ran for 50 yards, and Carter and Travis Steptoe added 32 yards apiece.
Bluefield, No. 8 in this week's ratings, ended its nine-game regular season and will be waiting to see what the final playoff rankings have in store.
James Monroe, ranked third, wraps up its regular schedule on Friday night at Class AAA neighbor Greenbrier East.
James Monroe (9-0)..........7 0 7 3 - 17
Bluefield (5-4)..................0 7 7 0 - 14
JMHS-Heath Mullins 17 pass from Jason Jackson (Dalton Pritt kick), 3:40
BHS-Maurice Jordan 25 pass from Eric McClanahan (Sean Cornelius kick), 0:10
JMHS-Jackson 84 run (Pritt kick), 4:26
BHS-Shawn Brooks 5 run (Cornelius kick), 0:47
JMHS-Pritt 30 FG, 11:17