Game Of The Week: James Wood At Millbrook

Posted: October 21, 2016
The Winchester Star
WINCHESTER — There’s been a lot of people on social media this week pointing out last year’s 72-0 win by Millbrook over James Wood, which easily stands as the biggest margin of victory in a competitive series that the Colonels lead 7-6 all-time.
Obviously, these are two different teams than the ones that met last year at the Colonels’ Kelican Stadium.
Frankly, Pioneers head coach Josh Haymore thinks the James Wood team (2-5, 1-1 Northwestern District) that will come to Millbrook (6-1, 1-0) for a 7 p.m. Homecoming game kickoff tonight isn’t the same one that area football fans saw the first five weeks of the season.
And Haymore said that’s mainly due to the Colonels’ decision to move senior Isaac Schrantz from fullback to offensive tackle prior to James Wood’s Oct. 7 game with Sherando.
“I told our kids, when [the Colonels] made that move, they turned into a different football team,” Haymore said. “We’re looking at it like they’re 1-1. We’re not looking at what their record is over the year. They changed personnel, and they’re a better football team.
“They’re getting better penetration on the line. They’re playing physical. They’ve got a little confidence now.” The 5-foot-11, 210-pound Schrantz posted solid numbers at fullback over the first five games (63 carries, 224 yards, one TD), but part of the problem was that the Colonels didn’t have Schrantz blocking for himself.
But the last two games have been a different story for James Wood. The Colonels didn’t put up big offensive numbers against Sherando in a 34-0 defeat, but they ran 17 more plays and held the ball for 12 minutes and 34 seconds longer.
James Wood entered its game with Skyline last week averaging 175 yards and 10.8 points per game.
But against the Hawks, James Wood had 385 yards of total offense in a 26-0 win as Tyler Arnold (12 carries, 98 yards, two TDs), Ryan Rupp (22 carries, 88 yards) and Keegan DeHaven (eight carries, 62 yards) ripped off big runs behind tackles Schrantz and Damien Hale, guards Dominic Revetta and Jordan Loy, and center Luke Roy.
Schrantz — an All-Conference 21 offensive lineman last year — had been preparing to transition to fullback since October of 2015. Schrantz said it was difficult to make the switch back to the line, but he realized it was a necessary change.
“With everything I did, I felt like I deserved to be at fullback,” Schrantz said. “But in the end, I wanted to help the team win, and being on the line is where I’m supposed to be. With our scheme right now, it helps. We’re getting first downs, we’re running the ball, and we’re staying on the field as an offense together more.”
Based on its record and its rating, Millbrook is not only a different team than last year, but a better one.
At this time last year Millbrook was 5-2 and rated ninth in the 4A West Region, and this year the Pioneers have one more win and are rated third. With the exception of its 50-15 loss to No. 1 Woodgrove, Millbrook has pretty much moved up and down the field at will against the opposition in averaging 42 points and 400.9 yards per game.
But as good as the Pioneers have been, they’re always striving to get better.
After the loss to Woodgrove, Millbrook worked on its passing attack. And after Millbrook’s most recent game — a 66-28 win over Skyline on Oct. 7 — Haymore expressed that the Pioneers needed to get better on defense.
Though Millbrook returns many of the key personnel from last year’s defense that gave up 15.3 points per game and 235.6 yards per game, the Pioneers are surrendering 20.1 ppg and 288.8 ypg this season.
Skyline (345 yards against Millbrook) had some productive games on offense prior to facing the Pioneers. But the Hawks have also struggled, too. James Wood was the third team to shut out Skyline this year.
“[That game] was humbling,” said Millbrook senior linebacker Dakota Koenig (48 tackles). “We realized we needed to step it up, and we needed to make better plays and better reads on defense. Make the tackles, make the plays.”
Haymore said pass defense is what the Pioneers worked on the most during their bye week. Millbrook does have 13 interceptions, but the Pioneers are giving up 45 more yards per game through the air compared to last year.
Haymore said the linebackers went over how to read their keys, and the corners went over the proper way to make the turns they need to make. Haymore added at time at times there’s been mix-ups on the run and pass responsibilities that are required on a given play.
Much like Millbrook, James Wood’s priority is to run the ball, so all that work in pass defense might only show up if the Pioneers can achieve their goal of putting James Wood in third-and-long situations.
“[Our] D-line has been playing pretty good this year,” Haymore said. “They’ve done a good job of ripping their gap, going past their gap with low pad level.
“[James Wood] wants long drives. You’ve got to get them in third-and-long and make them execute a pass to stay on the field.”
James Wood’s defense is coming off an excellent performance, but few challenges are more daunting than trying to slow down a Millbrook rushing attack led by sophomore Savon Smith (66 carries, 1,031 yards, 15.6 average, 15 TDs), who mostly runs outside, and senior P.K. Kier (77, 856, 11.1, 9), who does a lot of his work on the inside.
Some teams have been able to bottle up one, but not both.
Clarke County held Kier to 27 yards on 13 carries, but Smith had 303 yards and four TDs on 16 carries.
Against Kettle Run, Kier had 252 yards and 3 TDs on eight carries on a night where Smith had 33 yards on eight carries, though Smith did have 15- and 13-yard TD runs.
Against Woodgrove, Kier had 10 carries for 43 yards, Smith had eight carries for 127 yards and one TD. Skyline held Kier to 40 yards on six carries, but Smith had 15 carries, 243 yards and four TDs.
“You can’t key on one person [with Millbrook],” James Wood coach Mark McHale said. “They’ve got talent and speed, and we don’t have the speed that they’ve got. You can’t let them going and get a crack [of space] and get to the second level, because when they get there we can’t catch them.
“[Smith] does a great job cutting back against the grain. You have to be real disciplined front side and back side against him.”
The main thing that James Wood wants to do tonight is give its best possible performance.
That was virtually impossible last year. The Colonels played all of last year’s game without leading rusher Tyler Bishop and played most of the game without leading tackler Ryan Funkhouser and Schrantz.
“There’s been some talk going on [between the schools],” Schrantz said. “But we’ve just got to focus on ourselves, and hopefully we can play well and earn some respect this Friday.”
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