All-Area Football: Offensive Player Of The Year James Wood’s Tyler Bishop
Posted: December 26, 2015
By ROBERT NIEDZWIECKI
The Winchester Star
(Photo by Ginger Perry/The Winchester Star)
WINCHESTER — In the eight full games he played this year, James Wood senior running back Tyler Bishop rushed for at least 151 yards and one touchdown in seven of them.
The best of the bunch was the one against Warren County, when Bishop set a school single-game rushing record with 311 yards and tied a school record with five touchdowns in one game. James Wood scored the first 25 points and never led by fewer than 18 in a 52-34 win.
Despite the historical significance, the fact that the Colonels were comfortably ahead most of the game is why it’s not Bishop’s favorite.
What really drives Bishop is the rush you get from a hard-fought battle, which is why the game he remembers most fondly this year is the one against the one team that held him in check.
“Honestly, my favorite was Sherando,” said Bishop, who had 66 yards and a touchdown in a game that the Warriors won 14-10 on Oct. 9. “I like going in and playing a tough game. It’s fun breaking a record, but going against Sherando, and having it that close and having it come down to the end is what I liked the best.
“You’re not supposed to go into every game and rush for 200, 300 yards. You’re going to have to go through games where you’re not going to get the ball or the yards don’t come easy, and you just have to fight it out.”
With that type of attitude, it’s no wonder Bishop had the spectacular season he did, and his performance earns him The Winchester Star Offensive Football Player of the Year award.
Though he missed nearly two full games because of a concussion, Bishop — a first team All-Conference 21A selection — led the area in rushing yards during the regular season with 1,549, and he also led the area in scoring (120 points). Of his 20 touchdowns, 19 were rushing.
Bishop — who averaged 7.6 yards per game on 203 carries — wound up ranking second in total rushing yards when factoring in postseason games (the 5-5 Colonels did not qualify), but his average of 172.9 rushing yards per game ranks as the best of all area players.
Bishop did all this insisting on participating on just about every play. He recorded 75 tackles (second on the team) as a linebacker. He also starred on special teams, earning all-conference honors as a kickoff returner (first team) and punt returner (second team).
“He worked so hard in the offseason,” James Wood coach Mark McHale said. “He practiced with the same intensity that you’d have in a game. You could tell he was on a mission to have a great senior year.”
One of the things Bishop — who also had 12 catches for 182 yards and a TD — did to prepare for this season was attend summer college camps for the first time. A couple of the ones that he attended were at Old Dominion and Richmond.
“Those camps show you how hard you have to work,” Bishop said. “There’s a lot of great athletes out there, and it kept me positive and motivated to go into my own season so I could do better than last year.”
It took Bishop three games to surpass last year’s total of nine rushing touchdowns, four games to surpass last year’s total of 894 rushing yards, and through five games, he was on pace to have the greatest rushing season in school history with 125 carries for 1,104 yards and 13 TDs.
James Wood’s sixth game pitted it against undefeated Sherando (5-0), who had won the previous four games against the 4-1 Colonels by a combined score of 183-27, including 92-7 in two games last year.
Bishop’s four-yard TD run tied the game at 7 on the opening drive of the second half, and the Colonels took a 10-7 with 6:58 left. But Sherando scored a TD 26 seconds later to go up 14-10, and then stopped Bishop behind the line of scrimmage on a fourth-and-2 run from the Sherando 25 with 34 seconds left.
“It was exciting being part of a close game that a lot of people thought James Wood wouldn’t do very well in,” Bishop said. “We showed that we could compete with one of the best teams [in the region], and that game showed us that we could be good the rest of the year.”
Two quarterbacks had 100-yard rushing games against the Warriors, but no running back had more than Bishop’s 66 yards (on 22 carries) against them this year. Running backs and first team Conference 21A selections Charlie Clewis (Woodgrove) and P.K. Kier and Nazeeh Johnson (both of Millbrook) were all held under 40 yards rushing this year by Sherando.
So while Bishop was held under 151 yards for the first time all year, the quality of the opponent showed he was still running well. But an injury a week later forced him to stop running completely.
A minute into the second quarter against Skyline, Bishop was tackled from behind after a 33-yard gain and fumbled the ball. Bishop said he doesn’t remember fumbling the ball though, because he suffered a concussion on the play. The first thing he remembered was the sound of the Skyline fans screaming because the Hawks recovered the fumble.
Bishop’s day was done after a promising 64-yard rushing performance in just 13 minutes. There’s no telling how many yards he would have gained that day, but it’s not the lost yardage that disappointed Bishop — it was the lost games.
With Bishop watching from the sideline, the Colonels lost 29-28 in overtime to Skyline. Even though he wanted to play and felt physically OK to do so, Bishop wasn’t cleared to play against Millbrook the next week either, adding to his frustrations. With James Wood playing without star linebacker Ryan Funkhouser for most of the game because of a leg injury, all Bishop could do was watch as the Pioneers won 72-0.
“It’s sad,” Bishop said. “I feel like I let my teammates down. That Millbrook game was my Senior Night, and knowing how big the implications of that game were on our season, it was hard on me and hard on my teammates. But at same time, there really wasn’t anything I can do with a concussion. I just had to deal with it.”
When Bishop was cleared, he came back just as strong as before. Against a quality Spring Mills team that went 7-4 and made the West Virginia Class AAA playoffs, Bishop ran for 151 yards and two TDs. He then helped James Wood salvage a second consecutive 5-5 regular season with 164 yards and two TDs in a win over Handley.
Bishop’s injury might have cost him the school’s career rushing record (he finished with 2,815 yards, second only to Clayton Hartman’s 3,024) and the single-season touchdown mark (21). But Bishop’s 20 TDs gave him 36 for his career, breaking the previous mark of 32.
McHale can’t say enough about Bishop.
McHale loves the fact that Bishop never wants to take a play off. He loves Bishop’s ability to break down opponents and offer suggestions on what could be done to help the team, whether he’s watching film during the week or picking up tendencies on game days. And of course, he loves his work ethic, ability and production.
“He’s one of the most exciting backs James Wood has ever had,” McHale said. “We’re going to miss him. If a team had 11 like him, they’d go undefeated.”
Bishop certainly wouldn’t have turned down an undefeated record this year, but all he basically wanted was the chance to show what his team could do in the playoffs.
The fact that James Wood didn’t was disappointing, but Bishop — who hopes to continue his career in college — sure enjoyed trying to get the Colonels there.
“It was all fun to me,” Bishop said. “I’d go back any second to play again and get this season back.”