Friday night at 7:30 p.m. in Fredericksburg, the Essex Trojans will put their undefeated record on the line as they face the James Monroe Yellow Jackets.
The game should prove a test for the Trojans, the top-ranked Division 1 football program in the state.
The Division 3 Jackets, boast a much larger program, drawing from 843 students as compared to Essex’s 467. The Jackets finished well last year, like Essex, ending as their division’s state runner-up.
James Monroe is currently, 2-2 and ranked 7th by the Virginia High School League (VHSL) in Division 3, while Essex, 4-0, is ranked first in Division 1.
Last Friday night, shortly after his team had defeated visiting Mathews, Essex Coach John Fulks was guarded in discussing the upcoming game.
“This was a nice win tonight, and now we’ve got to put it behind us and prepare for a very good JM team. It is going to be a dog fight. They are a very physical team, and it is going to be a very physical game,” Fulks said.
Essex has outplayed all of their opponents this year including the Division 2 defending state champion Goochland and a tough Division 2 rival, King William.
In a word, Essex is fast.
The Trojans strike quickly and have put points on the board almost at will against some of their slower opponents.
Friday night promises to be different.
“Their team speed is comparable to ours and it is going to be a very tough opponent. They are a Triple-A team and a state runner-up two years in a row,” Fulks said.
Little more than a decade ago, Essex played James Monroe regularly. The Trojans have not played the Yellow Jackets since 2004. That year Essex beat James Monroe in a regular-season match up and then again in the first round of the playoffs before losing in the state quarter finals.
To win, the Trojans will have to play heads up football and be ready. If their performance against Mathews was any indication, they are.
Against Mathews, Essex posted eight touchdowns scored by eight different players, rolling up a 40-0 lead at halftime and winning 53-7.
Leo Gaskins started things off with a 29-yard touchdown run.
Dominek Broaddus found Tre Jones with a 35-yard pass for the next score, and Broaddus ran for the next one from 37 yards out.
Broaddus then connected with Sterling Hammond on a 23-yard pass, and the Trojans held a 27-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
C.J. Jones rumbled for a 52-yard touchdown, and Lathan Johnson scored the Trojans’ final touchdown of the half on a 24-yard pass play.
Clifton Bundy scored on a four-yard run in the middle of the third quarter that made it 47-0.
Mathews got on the board a few minutes later when Jesse Ingram scored on 82-yard kick-off return.
Teshan Nelson scored the last Trojan touchdown of the night on a five-yard run.