Football Previews — Colonels All About The Run Game
Posted: August 26, 2015
By ROBERT NIEDZWIECKI
The Winchester Star
WINCHESTER — As evidenced by the James Wood football team’s no pass attempts and 48 rushes for 333 yards in last year’s 21-14 win over Broadway, Mark McHale and the Colonels take a lot of pride in their ability to run the ball.
And if James Wood can stop the run a little better this year, that’s just more opportunities for senior running back Tyler Bishop (1,155 total yards and 12 total touchdowns) to run the ball behind fellow All-Conference 21 second team center Adam Vadell and the rest of the Colonels’ offensive line.
The Colonels are coming off a remarkable 2014 season in which they went 5-6 (2-2 Northwestern District) and earned their first playoff berth since 2011. They lost all five times that they gave up more than 200 rushing yards, and in their loss to Fauquier, James Wood gave up 174 yards on the ground.
The Colonels (five returning defensive starters) definitely bring some talent capable of making the team better in that department.
The defensive line features senior Asa Brewer (second team All-Conference 21 and Northwestern District, 66 tackles, 51/2 sacks) and junior Isaac Schrantz (32 tackles) at the ends, and the linebacking corps includes seniors Ryan Funkhouser (all-district first team, all-conference second team, 130 tackles, nine for loss) and Bishop (57 tackles).
“I think we’re night and day better than we were last year stopping the run,” McHale said. “They’re stronger from the weight room, they’re quicker, and with their experience we can do more things with them. We’re ahead defensively from where we were last year.”
Bishop said last week that the Colonels’ run defense is a work in progress, but it’s getting there.
“At practice, at times we struggle, but we just pick it right back up,” Bishop said. “We know we’ve got to play tough, be physical. And as linebackers, me and Ryan have got to scrape. Basic fundamentals.”
As for the rest of the Colonels’ defensive front, the defensive tackles will be Vadell and junior Dominick Revetta, and senior Donald Mellott will play James Wood’s “Will” linebacker position.
“A big surprise is Donald Mellott,” McHale said. “He started the first two games at center last year and didn’t play any defense, but he’s really showing some ability there.”
In the secondary, junior Dillon Manuel is a returning starter at corner (37 tackles), and he’ll be aided by senior cornerback Drew Keller and safeties Kyle Hindman (senior) and Ryan Rupp (junior).
Offensively, James Wood ranked last in the area in points (17.5) and yards (244.6) per game. But once again they can rely on one of the area’s best running backs in Bishop, who picked up 894 yards and nine TDs on the ground and added 261 yards and three TDs on 15 receptions last year.
Bishop was a first team all-district selection and a second team all-conference selection.
“He’s our guy,” McHale said. “He goes hard every snap. He practices like he’s in college. He plays with heart.”
Bishop’s blockers on the line feature returning starters in Vadell (6 feet, 270 pounds), and Schrantz (5-11, 260) at left guard. McHale said both players have developed greatly on both sides of the ball.
James Wood will play Central transfer Cody Polk (5-11, 215) at left tackle. Senior Emmett Smith will play right tackle after seeing time as a reserve last year, and Revetta (5-10, 310) will play right guard.
“We’re blessed to get Cody Polk, because he was the missing piece of the puzzle,” McHale said. “He was a fullback-linebacker type, but he fit right in on that line. I think we’ve got a pretty stout offensive line.”
Junior Dade Carroll takes over as the starting quarterback after directing James Wood to that no-pass win over Broadway (starter Brady Hepner was injured). Carroll played briefly in a few other games as well. Carroll’s position coach this year is Brian Wolf, who served as Shenandoah University’s offensive coordinator from 2006-12. (Wolf will also coach defensive backs.)
In addition to Bishop, Brewer will also start as a running back for James Wood, and Funkhouser will also rotate in. James Wood’s starting wide receivers are Manuel and Hindman, and McHale said junior Noah Sullivan — who impressed McHale greatly in the preseason with his receiving and blocking — will be a fixture in the Colonels’ three- and four-receiver sets.
Senior Brady Burner is back as the team’s placekicker, though the Colonels frequently eschewed point-after kicks in favor of two-point conversion attempts last year. Keegan DeHaven will handle punting duties.
Overall, James Wood feels significantly more confident in terms of attitude and its skills compared to this time last year.
A year ago, the Colonels were coming of their second straight 1-9 season, and they started the 2014 season by losing their first two games by a combined 62-12. They were outgained 713-244 in those games, and committed seven turnovers.
But in the end, 2014 saw the Colonels achieve their most wins since 2010 and their first playoff berth since 2011. The Colonels also beat Handley for the first time since 2007 and the second time since 1992 with a 27-21 overtime win, and they came back to beat Millbrook for the second straight year by rallying from a 14-0 halftime deficit, then stopping the Pioneers on a two-point conversion with under a minute remaining to win 21-20.
“Last year was just a huge confidence boost for us as players and as coaches,” Bishop said.
Limiting turnovers (James Wood also had four in a 42-14 loss to Skyline) and keeping healthy (32 players this year) are also cited by McHale as keys to success this fall. And after what James Wood did last year, McHale sees no reason why success can’t be attained again.
“The way we finished with wins over Millbrook and Handley, and playing Sherando in the playoffs much better than we did the first time in the regular season, that was huge for our team going into the offseason,” McHale said. “Monday after Sherando, we were getting into offseason heavy lifting, and through the snow and spring we did speed training, step running and weight lifting, and then they all made all the workouts they’re required to make in the summer.
“They’ve definitely got a little confidence.”
James Wood opens its season on Friday in Leesburg at Heritage.