Lindside – Playing with heavy hearts after the death of former coach and local legend Ben Thornton over the weekend, the James Monroe Mavericks came away with a late turnover to beat Pendleton County 12-7 in Lindside Tuesday evening.
After struggling to score most of the game, the Mavericks made the plays necessary to pick up their second win when it counted.
“Part of it I’ve got to give credit to their defense,” Mavericks coach John Mustain said. “That’s a good team, they’re a hard-nosed team, but we kept making a lot of mental mistakes. A penalty here, a penalty there, bad snaps, stuff like but they hung tough and they persevered so I’m proud of them.”
With a heavy downpour impacting field conditions throughout the first half, both teams turned the ball over twice but used big plays to get on the scoreboard.
The Wildcats struck first when Dillon Smith rolled right and found the end zone 29 yards later at the 7:37 mark of the second quarter. The Mavs answered two minutes later when Cooper Ridgeway bolted 73 yards down the left side to make it a 7-6 game, which it remained until the fourth quarter.
With just over six minutes left in the game the Mavericks opened the scoring drive that ultimately decided the game. A horse collar tackle on second-and-long sparked the drive and the Mavericks, who limited their passing attempts throughout the game, went to the air and found success.
A 29-yard strike from Ridgeway to Allen put the Mavs in the red zone and later in the drive Allen, moving back to quarterback, scrambled down to the Pendleton 4 to put his team on the doorstep.
“Honestly, the weather conditions had a lot to do with it,” Mustain said of a conservative passing attack. “It’s pretty rough there in the first half as far as trying to throw and catch. Not to say that it was great, but it did level off and we just had that mist there at the end and it did level off, so that definitely helped out.”
Two plays after Allen’s scramble Ridgeway picked up his second score, powering in from three yards out to make it a 12-7 game with two minutes left.
Tasked with preserving the lead, the defense did just that.
A first-down sack of Pendleton quarterback James Vincell eventually put the Wildcats in a third-and-long situation.
It was Allen again with a big play, ranging over to the right side sideline to pick Vincell’s pass, Allen’s second interception of the day, and effectively end the game.
“He’s just a good athlete,” Mustain said. “He hadn’t played in several years and he’s starting to get a feel for it back there on defense. He’s excited too and those are the type of plays I’ve been looking for out of him. He did what I know he’s capable of doing. Another kid I really have to point out that did a good job for us at corner in a relief role is Chaz Boggs. He had a really nice pass breakup for us in the second half.
“On the defensive side I thought we did really well. To hold them to a touchdown like we did, especially being put in the hole quite often like we were tonight, but I’m proud of the whole team.”
Before the game the Mavericks made sure to honor Thornton who passed away over the weekend after a bout with Covid. Thornton was an all-state running back that led the Mavericks to an 11-1 record and a Class AA state semifinal appearance in 1999. He was a Kennedy Award finalist that season and went on to play college ball at Concord.
He spent the last few years as an assistant at James Monroe before taking over one of the feeder programs this past spring. To honor him, every Maverick had a No. 20 decal on their helmet. Seniors Grant Lively and Cameron Thomas carried Thornton’s No. 20 jersey out of the locker room with them during the pregame entrances.
James Monroe honoring Ben Thornton before the game. Thornton was an assistant on staff the last few years at the high school and helped coach many of the kids on the team. #wvprepfb pic.twitter.com/CGD6bGP8Fc
— Tyler Jackson (@TJack94) September 21, 2021
“I think maybe that was a little bit of a factor tonight,” Mustain said. “The emotions from everything that happened this past weekend and the funeral coming up Saturday. It – he meant so much to the community. I told them out there and I told Pendleton why we were going to the 20 to do our postgame meditation. He put James Monroe on the map. We had made the playoffs a few times prior to him but he’s one of those players that when you go throughout the state that anybody who’s 40 or older, if you say James Monroe, his name comes up. Ben’s name comes up every time. He just meant so much to this community and as a coach as well. He’s going to be dearly missed.”
James Monroe is scheduled to play again on Oct. 1 when it travels to PikeView after its scheduled game at Covington, Va. this Friday was canceled
Contact Tyler Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org, call/text him at 304-731-5542 and follow on Twitter @tjack94
PC (1-2) : 0 7 0 0 – 7
JM (2-1): 0 6 0 6 – 12
PC: Dillon Smith 29 rush (Kick Braden McClanahan), 7:37
JM: Cooper Ridgeway 73-rush (Conversion fails), 5:03
JM: Ridgeway 3 rush (Conversion fails), 2:03
Rushing – JM: Cooper Ridgeway 16-107 2 TDs; Smith 4-33 1 TD
Passing – JM: Ridgeway 5-5-61-0, Allen 4-8-46-1; PC: Vincell 5-13-50-2
Receiving – JM: Allen 3-38, Lively 2-31, Thomas 2-30; PC: McClannahan 2-29