Football Preview - Colonels vs. Judges

Posted: November 6, 2015

James Wood at Handley

When: Saturday, 1 p.m.

Where: Handley Bowl

Records: James Wood Colonels (4-5), Handley Judges (0-9).

Last week: James Wood lost 35-21 to Spring Mills; Handley lost 56-0 to Millbrook.

Last year: James Wood 27, Handley 21, OT

Players to watch: James Wood — WR/DB Dillon Manuel, RB/LB Tyler Bishop, LB Ryan Funkhouser, QB Dade Carroll. Handley — LB Anthony Smith, TE/LB Dolan Delaney, RB Cameron Davenport, QB Jacob Parker.

Preview: When rivals meet, usually both teams are desperate for a win.

In this year’s clash between James Wood and Handley, that desperation has even more meaning.

The Colonels are looking to end a four-game losing streak and the Judges (according to are hoping to avoid the first winless season since the program began in 1919.

After last year’s overtime thriller, Wood is also looking for its first consecutive wins since 1976 and 1977 against the Judges, who lead the all-time series 35-17-1.

Coach Mark McHale, whose club has struggled because of injuries, expects to have a full complement of players on Saturday.

Linebacker Ryan Funkhouser missed last week’s loss to Spring Mills with a leg injury, but is expected to play.

“Hopefully, he’s ready to go this week,” McHale said of Funkhouser, who leads the Colonels with 96 tackles. “He’ll help us a bunch. We should be at full bore.”

Handley’s Tony Rayburn has also dealt with multiple injuries this season.

“At times, we’ve had a number of kids out,” Rayburn said. “It’s hard when you have a young team and you’re beat up.”

Wood was in position to end its skid last week against Spring Mills. The Colonels had tied the game late in the third quarter on a touchdown run by Tyler Bishop, but on the next possession got burned on a 77-yard touchdown pass.

Those big plays have hurt Wood all season.

The Handley offense is looking for any kind of big play. The Judges are averaging less than a touchdown per game.

“We’ve had a couple this year, but not many,” Rayburn said of explosive plays. “Obviously, it would be nice to have some Saturday.”

Wood’s offense got a lift with the return of Bishop last week. The senior leads the area with 1,385 yards and 17 rushing touchdowns.

“They have a great running back,” Rayburn said. “They’re really good up front on both sides of the ball.”

McHale says he has definitely seen an improvement from Handley on film. He points to the Judges’ 31-17 loss against Skyline two weeks ago. The Judges were tied 17-17 late in the third quarter with the Hawks, who defeated the Colonels 29-28 in overtime.

Handley quarterback Jacob Parker threw for 150 yards against Skyline, including a 74-yard TD toss to Marcus Tactikos.

“They’re building for next year,” McHale said of the Judges. “[Rayburn’s] playing a freshman quarterback who is going to be good. They’re getting better each week.”

McHale says the skid, which started with a 14-10 emotional loss to Sherando, had taken its toll.

“It’s been a grind on the team,” he said. “We need a win to end the season.”

To do that, he expects Bishop to play a big part. Bishop ran for 221 yards on 36 carries and scored the game-winner in overtime last season against the Judges.

“Handley will play their best ball against us,” McHale said. “Hopefully we can get Tyler going. I think it’s going to be a good game. We can’t give them life. If we do, we’re going to be in for a battle.”

Rayburn doesn’t expect his club to need much motivation.

“A rivalry is something that’s important to the kids,” he said. “And, they know this is our last chance to win a game. ... They have been working hard in practice and we’re going to put forth our best effort.”

— Compiled by Walt Moody