Gallery by Greg Barnett
Lindside – The rain drops in Lindside Saturday were clear but there was still a purple reign.
Class A No. 1 James Monroe held No. 16 Petersburg to five yards of total offense in the first half of Saturday’s Class A first-round playoff game, advancing to the quarterfinals with a 37-13 victory in Lindside.
The win sets up a rematch with No. 8 Greenbrier West, a game James Monroe won 27-0 on Oct. 7.
As they have all season, the top-seeded Mavericks relied on their defense to get them out of tight spots and force timely turnovers to get off the field.
“That’s a really good team and they were a little shorthanded, of course we were too with a kid or two out,” James Monroe head coach John Mustain said. “Again that defense, I can’t say enough about them.”
After a James Monroe flub on special teams set the Vikings up in the red zone follwing a punt attempt, the Maverick defense forced the first of five turnovers on downs at their own 12. It took five plays for the hosts to strike, doing so in resounding fashion.
On third-and-10 from the JM 24, Mavericks QB Layton Dowdy hit receiver Eli Allen on a deep post route and the latter did the rest to cash in a 76-yard touchdown catch.
The next James Monroe drive was nearly as efficient though didn’t require the distance. Setting up shop at their own 44, the Mavericks advanced to the Petersburg 21 in four plays with the aid of horse collar penalty. Cooper Ridgeway capped the drive a play later with a punishing 21-yard touchdown run.
It was the second of four straight drives that ended with James Monroe scores as Braydie Carr scored on a 26-yard jaunt and Dowdy, who finished 7 of 11 passing for 176 yards and two touchdowns, connected with Nick Pitzer on a 31-yard strike to make it a 28-0 game with 8:43 left in the first half.
The success of the passing attack has been a pleasant this season surprise for the Mavericks who have thrown for 19 touchdowns this season. It was even more shocking for Mustain and Co. considering the light rain Saturday and the muddy field conditions in the aftermath of Friday’s downpour.
“Not really and I was kind of worried about that,” Mustain said. “Our passing game is pretty decent and I was kind of worried about (the conditions) but Layton throws a good ball and I think you saw that today. Nick hadn’t had a touchdown since we were at Pendleton and I was happy for him. But we’ve got three or four kids that can catch the ball – kids out of the backfield too so hopefully they will continue.”
The Vikings weren’t fortunate enough to share in the offensive success.
While the Mavericks were scoring on four consecutive possessions the visitors from Grant County had back-to-back turnovers on downs, one coming on an errant punt attempt that buried them, setting up Carr’s score.
“They were very physical up front with us and kind of beating us off the ball on offense and defense,” Petersburg head coach Donny Evans said. “A couple times we kind of played well and executed well but they were very aggressive on the defensive front and caught us off guard on our running stuff and got us behind the sticks on first down. All season we had been in front of the sticks but they got us behind the sticks.”
The Vikings grabbed the momentum out of the half, marching 80 yards in eight plays for their first score of the game and forced the Mavericks to turn the ball over on downs at the Petersburg 8 on the following drive. Unfortunately for the visitors, the Mavericks stopped the bleeding immediately with a safety from Hayden Parker and a 49-yard rushing score from Ridgeway on the next play from scrimmage to make it a 37-7 game. The Vikings never threatened the rest of the way.
Logan Thorn added a late score for Petersburg with under three minutes to go, wrapping up the final.
The Mavericks now turn their attention to the Cavaliers, adding a new chapter to one of the area’s best rivalries.
“They’re a tough team,” Mustain said. “They’re not where they’re at for no reason. I’ve said from the opening with this bracket, just because you’re sitting up at No. 1 or 2, it’s no guarantee because there’s a lot of good teams up and down this bracket. It’ll be a tough game. We all know what Mr. (Ty) Nickell can do but he’s not the only thing they’ve got. They’re a very good defensive team and we made some mistakes today we’ll want to get shored up for that game.”
Cooper Ridgeway led the Mavs’ ground attack with 117 yards on 15 carries, scoring twice while Carr added 59 yards and a score. Allen caught two passes for 84 yards and a score while Carr added a 47-yard reception.
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