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JF sees two touchdown lead vanish

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Cavaliers lose another close game, 27-26

By Tom Wilmoth

This is a game Jefferson Forest would like to have back.
    The Cavaliers led by two touchdowns for much of the contest, but at the very end, Rustburg pulled a rabbit out of the hat and lit up the JF secondary for two late scores en route to a 27-26 victory.
    “We never should have lost the game,” stated Cavs Coach Bob Christmas.  “Right at the very end of the game we let it slip from us. We need to learn to finish.”
    Forest is young and Christmas hopes this will be a learning experience for his squad. “That’s some of the learning curve. You have to finish, you can’t let up,” he said. “It hurts to lost a game like that; it starts    to    diminish    our chances of making the playoffs which is a shame because we are starting to mature and become a pretty good football team.”
    JF lost 20 of 22 starters off last year’s team so it has taken a while to get rolling, Christmas said. Meanwhile the Red Devils came in with a senior-laden team and played like that down the stretch.
    Rustburg quarterback Dant’e Jones led the comeback, connecting with wideout Warren Lamberth for much of the damage late. Jones would also score a rushing TD and pass for the go-ahead 2-point conversion to complete the rally.
    Rustburg improved to 5-1 on the season, JF dropped to 2-4. But three of those losses have been by a total of just five points.
    It’s been a matter of just making those final one or two plays that have plagued the Cavaliers.
    At the end of Friday’s rain-soaked game, JF failed to make a first down which would have put the game away late. Instead the Cavs punted and Rustburg made its final rally through the air for the win.
    “I felt like the smart thing to do was to punt it,” Christmas said of giving up the ball to Rustburg for its final drive.
    The JF defense had played well for most of the night, thwarting the Rustburg running attack. “We pretty much shut their running game down. But they hurt us in the air a little bit. That has been a little bit of a nemesis to us,” he said.
    That punt with just five minutes left in the game was Forest’s first of the contest.
    “There was not a single game that we weren’t in,” Christmas said of the team’s losses. “We’re a football team that could be 6-0 right now, but for five points you’re 5-1.”
    But Christmas is encouraged.
    “To our kids credit, there is an eagerness on their part to improve every day,” he said, noting that at this point in the season they could have “thrown in the towel.”
    “Our kids are far from that,” he said. “I think they see the big picture in our program and the steps that we have to take and the position that they’re in.”
    Though they lack the experience, they want to get better every week, he said.
    “For a football coach that’s all you want out of a kid,” he said. “I can pour my heart into a bunch of kids that have that mentality.”
    The fact that the Cavs are giving it their all is “a real tribute to them,” he added.
    Against Rustburg, Cordney Harris had a big night for the Cavs going over 100 yards, with 104 yards on 14 carries. Marvin Blake also was over 100, with 124 yards on 15 carries.
    “I thought all of our backs played well,” Christmas said.
    He also noted that freshman fullback Keenan Cupit had a good night with 63 yards on nine carries.
    “Our line is really starting to come together,” he said of the players opening up the holes for the running backs. “Abe Rodriguez, our right guard, had a break out night.”
    He added that OP Peterson, starting at left guard, has been doing well along with sophomore center Josh French, who was filling some big shoes this season.
    The team’s right tackle the past two weeks, Garrett Mitchell, started last week, has never played football before and had a great night against Rustburg, Christmas said. Chris Peters, the team’s other tackle, also had an outstanding game.
    “Our line had a great night, it seems like it is starting to gel for them up front.”
    And for all but the final six minutes of the game, he was pleased with the way the defense played.
    JF dominated the contest everywhere but on the scoreboard, out-gaining Rustburg by more than 100 yards on offense.

Next up
    Forest now moves on to face Amherst which is 5-1 overall after falling to Brookville in a 32-31 overtime upset, last week.
    “I don’t think anyone saw that coming,” Christmas said of Amherst’s loss to the Bees.
    He knows Amherst will present a challenge for his team.
    The Lancers beat Salem earlier this year and have a great rushing attack led by Jerry Page, who had 174 yards in last week’s loss. “He is one of leading rushers in area. He had a big night against us last year.”
    Christmas said Amherst’s defense has improved defense over last year. “They are very athletic and very big,” he said.
    The JF coach believes his team will have to win out to have a chance of making the playoffs. If they could do that, he believes his team is coming together and could make a run in the postseason play.