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Three colors: red, black and white. The Cavalier faithful painted themselves as the Wildcats saw only red in the end, 35-0. Jefferson Forest blacked out Rockbridge County in its first playoff game in nine years.
“JF is a very good football team. They are going to make some noise in the playoffs,” Rockbridge coach Jason White said.
Prior to the game’s first whistle, Jefferson Forest students gathered in the cool weather at a gazebo near the field and prepared for a spirit-filled game. The paint was lined up on the railing, and the colors began to flow onto each student who chanted from the first few rows of the stands.
The fans’ electricity filled the stands and the energy flowed down to the field as the Cavaliers stormed the field behind two Harley Davidsons.
The Cavaliers orchestrated three first downs in the opening drive, as the crowd roared in support. The excitement continued as Jefferson Forest’s Desmond Goode spun away from would-be tacklers on a 43-yard touchdown sprint for the first strike of the game at 7:37 in the first quarter.
“They have a pretty quick D and blitz inside. I just hit it quick outside and saw the opening to the end zone,” Goode said.
Goode lit up the field with his footwork, as he gained 87 yards on 10 carries in the first half and 154 total yards for the game.
The defense suffocated the Wildcats and forced turnovers, to the enjoyment of the crowd.
On the ensuing kickoff, Rockbridge’s Steven Stonebridge had an enormous return but was taken down by Brandon Harrison. The Wildcats’ first drive couldn’t muster a first down and had to punt the ball away.
Rockbridge’s most impressive drive in the first half got the ball down to the 11-yard line late in the second quarter. The Cavaliers held them there, and then the field goal unit trotted on the field.
Jefferson Forest’s Teron Slaughter, J.T. Jacobs and Jeff Brown flew into the back field. Brown leapt and blocked the field goal attempt, as Jacobs scooped the ball up and dashed to the Rockbridge 46-yard line.
“I went in the open lane and just put my hands up, hoping to get a piece of the ball,” Brown said.
The crowd roared with approval as the Cavaliers’ defense played with great intensity. “The defense played lights out all night,” Jefferson Forest coach Don Rice said.
Two possessions later, Brown got a reward for his block by getting the nod to run the ball into the end zone. With 2:03 remaining in the half, Brown took the hand-off and dove in for the touchdown on a six-yard punch.
Rockbridge’s Blake Coffey was hounded all game and could not evade the quickness of Tommy Neal, who swept in for an 11-yard tackle for a loss on the next drive.
“The offense did a great job. It was a great game all around,” Brown said.
Adding to the electric atmosphere, Harrison rocketed a 31-yard pass to a diving Mark Carter to set up the Cavaliers on the 24-yard line with 18 seconds left in the first half.
Harrison connected with Colby Rhodes for a touchdown, to give JF a 21-0 lead at the break.
Josh Storm was perfect on his five PAT attempts for the game.
The second half domination continued, as JF pounded the ball and negated scoring attempts by the Wildcats.
A Harrison interception at the close of the third quarter, set up a touchdown by Ryan Glavas that put the game away, 35-0, in the final stanza.
The Wildcats’ woes continued on the next drive as RB Stonebridge lost the hand-off and fell on top of it with his back for a five-yard loss. On the very next play, Tyler Rosser picked off the ball and ran 25 yards before getting tripped up at the 10-yard line.
“I’m just glad I caught it. My eyes were wide open, it was like I was in slow motion,” Rosser said. “It means the world to be here in the playoffs. This is the closest team I’ve been a part of and that is why we are here.”
Although JF did not convert points on that turnover, the defense created confusion on the Wildcats’ next possession and the futility continued.
On 4th-and-inches from the Cavalier 30-yard line, Coffey called for Dana Richmond to go into motion and, in the process, he crossed paths with the ball being snapped on the shotgun. It hit Richmond’s arm and Jefferson Forest recovered the ball.
“Our kids refused to give up. I don’t make excuses and I’m really proud of them for that. They never gave up,” Coach White said of his Rockbridge team.
Jefferson Forest improved to 8-3 and will travel to Harrisonburg to face Turner Ashby in the Div. 4, Region III semifinal on Friday.
“The seniors keep us tight, keep us focused. In practice they work hard. We have a great family atmosphere. I would be proud to have my kid be a part of this,” Coach Rice stated.
The bond the seniors have has molded the team together and helped the Cavaliers become a force to be reckoned with.
Every Thursday, the team travels to Wyndhurst to dine at Smokey’s for their weekly ritual. “We are a close knit group and we play that way,” Goode said.
“The Turner Ashby game is going to be a slobberknuckle of a game,” coach Rice said.
The colorfully clad fans raced down to join the team in celebration and to conclude the night with the Lord’s Prayer.
“We all come together, the prayer unites us. We look forward to it and the students do it with us,” Rice concluded.