Defense Preserves James Wood’s Football Triumph Over Strasburg
Posted: September 19, 2015
By WALT MOODY
WINCHESTER — Prior to Friday night, the James Wood defense hasn’t been often called upon to make a big stand.
Mostly that Colonels’ unit has been providing just enough staying power that their high-scoring offense could overcome.
But, that all changed against Strasburg on Friday.
With the Colonels’ offense bottled up by the Ram defense and a mountain of penalties, the Wood defense came up with two huge stops over the final seven minutes to turn back previously unbeaten Strasburg 26-23 at Jerry L. Kelican Stadium.
Quarterback Dade Carroll rushed for two scores and threw for another and Tyler Bishop had 170 yards rushing and a score, but it was the defense that carried the Colonels to their third win in four games.
“The defense got called upon a lot,” said linebacker Ryan Funkhouser, who led the Colonels with nine tackles and had an interception to set up a touchdown drive. “It makes us feel really good. It was a major gut check for us. Everybody came through and pulled it out.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our defense. It was sloppy at times, but when we needed to we stepped up and made the right plays and finished the game.”
Wood held Strasburg to 195 total yards. Justin Carr, who entered the contest with three consecutive 100-yard games, had just 20 on 11 carries.
“Our defense had to grow up a little bit,” Colonels coach Mark McHale said. “They were behind the eight ball and man they got after the quarterback and I thought they did a good job against the running game. They played good overall.”
Wood appeared to have the contest well in hand after taking the kickoff to open the second half and driving 74 yards while overcome two major penalties. Bishop’s 33-yard burst on third-and-20 from the Colonels’ 34 kept the drive alive early.
Carroll’s 30-yard toss to Dillon Manuel on a receiver screen set up Bishop’s one-yard run on the next play. The score pushed the Wood lead to 26-7 with exactly seven minutes left in the third quarter.
But from there the offense would sputter, recording just one first down over the final 19 minutes.
“For whatever reason, we just weren’t as sharp offensively tonight,” McHale said.
Strasburg would gain momentum behind quarterback Adam Miller, whose running and passing would set up a 63-yard march. He capped the drive with a three-yard touchdown pass on a slant to Austin Miller and Trevin Howard’s conversion run made it 26-15.
The Rams then recovered an onsides kick, but Wood was able to hold.
But the momentum again shifted when lineman Tyler Brill picked off a Carroll pass and returned it to the Wood 18. Three plays later, Carr ran untouched up the middle from seven yards out for the score and Howard caught the two-point conversion to make it 26-23 with 10:12 left.
Strasburg got the ball back with 6:49 left, but turned the ball over after four plays. With Cody Polk in his face, Adam Miller misfired on fourth down.
The Rams got the ball back at their 20 with 2:57 remaining and moved. Adam Miller’s 19-yard pass to Howard on 4th-and-10 prolonged the march, which advanced to the Wood 35.
That’s where the defense stiffened. After an incompletion, Asa Brewer sacked Adam Miller for a 3-yard loss. An eight-yard pass set up fourth down from the 30 and Austin Miller couldn’t grab the final toss with 48 seconds left.
“You’ve got to be able to finish in those situations when a team like James Wood gives you an opportunity,” Strasburg coach Mark Roller said. “Most of the time if you don’t capitalize, you’re not going to win.”
The Wood defenders, ranked last among area teams coming into the game, were buoyed by the stops.
“It’s going to raise the confidence a lot,” said Manuel, also a defensive back. “It teaches us we can make big plays when it comes down to it.”
The Colonels trailed 7-0 before the defense even hit the field. Howard took the opening kickoff and raced 95 yards for a score.
“We started the game sloppy,” Funkhouser said. “That’s what happens. You’ve got to play catch-up and it sucks.”
Wood, which had a 53-yard Bishop TD run called back by a penalty (one of 9 for 85 yards) and was stopped at the 1 on its first possession, dominated the rest of the first half.
A short punt led to a three-play, 32-yard drive capped by Carroll’s 12-yard keeper to the left side. The conversion run failed to make it 7-6 Strasburg.
After Funkhouser’s interception, the Colonels took the lead for good on a beautiful strike from Carroll to Manuel on fourth down from 26. Carroll lofted a pass to the right sideline to Manuel, who made the catch and dove into the right front corner of the end zone.
“I was told I needed to have a big game this game,” said Manuel. “I told myself, ‘I have to get open. I have to score in this.’ … Dade just led me right in the perfect spot.”
A Strasburg fumble on its next possession gave the ball right back to Wood at the 10. Carroll’s sneak from the 1 capped the short drive and gave the Colonels a 20-7 lead at the break.
Bishop, who came into the contest averaging 261 yards per game, found the running more difficult, especially in the second half. He carried the ball 27 times.
“I thought we did a good job,” Roller said. “The thing that stuck in my mind the most is that when we hit him it took more than one guy to bring him down. … I know he probably had his yards, but the thing we didn’t let him do was break one of the big ones.”
Carroll completed 7 of 9 tosses for 127 yards. Manuel caught four for 83 yards.
Despite the penalties and special teams gaffes, McHale still was pleased to walk off the field 3-1.
“We did what we did and there’s nothing you can do about it,” he said. “But, it’s how you react when adversity strikes. … Adversity struck us, not once or twice, but about five times. That shows great character to hang in there.
“I told them it wasn’t a pretty win, but by golly it was a win.”