With a first-half filled with offense, and a second-half of grind-it-out defense, Friday’s match-up between the Meadowbrook Monarchs and Matoaca Warriors offered football’s equivalent of the best of both worlds. It would be the Monarchs that came out victorious as Meadowbrook cornerback Khylil James intercepted a Blake Bowen pass and took it back 80 yards as time expired in the first half to give the Monarchs (2-2) the decisive touchdown and lead at 21-14.
“Matoaca fought hard all game,” said Meadowbrook Head Coach Troy Taylor. “Pat Manuel is a great coach and Khalil Coleman showed why he’s a special player.”
Coleman electrified the Matoaca (1-3) crowd with an outstanding performance in week two against Clover Hill. The senior opened scoring with a five-yard scamper to put Matoaca up 7-0. The Monarchs would answer as sophomore quarterback Talik Mann hit running back Justin Miller for 53 yards on a dump pass that set up a 25-yard touchdown pass to senior wide out Terelle Whitaker on a similar play that knotted the score at seven.
After the teams swapped turnovers with Meadowbrook’s Zurich Mills intercepting a pass, and Matoaca defensive end Christian Chisholm recovering a fumble, it would be Coleman breaking off an 80-yard run to put the Warriors up again 14-7. Coleman finished the game with 138 yards on 13 carries and two touchdowns.
The Monarchs answered as Mann hit tight end Jonathan Bunns over the middle for a 17-yard touchdown on fourth down to tie the game again. As time ticked down in the first half, James made his move defensively and gave his team for the lead for good.
“We knew they would have a lot of different looks,” said Meadowbrook linebacker and team captain Kane Smith. “We prepped for all of those in practice this week.”
When Mann left the game in the third quarter after being injured (leg) on a quarterback keeper, Meadowbrook senior Kharon Conway kept the Monarchs on the path to victory.
Mann finished the contest 7-12 passing for 136 yards and two touchdowns. On the season the sophomore has completed 61 percent of his passes for 580 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions.
“Talik [Mann] has steadily improved each week in practice,” said Taylor. “He’s also improved in each game,” continued Taylor. “He wants to play quarterback and has thrived under the pressure of doing so.”
Meadowbrook has an impressive spread of athletes at quarterback in recent years including Rodney Nichols, Andre Coble (James Madison) and most recently, Gerard Johnson (Old Dominion). With no disrespect to any of the skill sets these players had, none of them developed into college quarterbacks. Coble has played some wide receiver at JMU, while Johnson has settled into a reserve running back role as a freshman, scoring three touchdowns in a high octane ODU attack.
While athletic and quick on his feet, Mann projects to be more of a “pure” quarterback. The Meadowbrook coaching staff has been working with him on his footwork and release.
“My main focus has been to really learn the plays,” said Mann. “I’m still getting comfortable,” he stated. “I realize when I’m comfortable my offense is comfortable and we play better together.”
Despite a tall order for Mann in following in some great players’ footsteps, Meadowbrook’s leading receiver, Whitaker gave Mann a simple vote of confidence.
“I think if he [Mann] puts his mind to it, that he could be better than Gerard [Johnson].”
Whitaker, earning his fourth letter in 2013 played with Johnson for three seasons. Whitaker and Johnson had great rapport as the two connected for 16 touchdowns in 2012.
Physically, Mann compares to L.C. Bird’s Terrance Ervin. Mann is listed as 6-2 171 and Ervin at 6-2 196. Ervin verbally committed to Liberty this offseason. Both are quarterbacks in traditionally run-heavy offenses. Ervin has established the ability to make big throws, but as a sophomore, Mann has shown flashes of the same- and has a couple of years to fill out his frame.
A very young team, Meadowbrook has defeated two capable teams in Manchester and Matoaca, and lost to two of the better teams in the Central Region in Hermitage and Highland Springs. With all of the youth, there’s much to build on.
Up next for the Monarchs is a home contest against Hopewell this Friday at 7 p.m. The Warriors look to rebound, hosting Colonial Heights at 7 p.m.