Ailing James Wood tumbles against Spring Mills

Walt Moody The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — It’s not a good sign for a football team to look behind the bench and see that the cheerleaders nearly outnumber the guys wearing shoulder pads.

But that’s what the James Wood players saw Friday at Jerry L. Kelican Stadium, along with about 10 of their teammates dressed in street clothes.
“We’re a wounded team right now, very wounded” said Colonels coach Mark McHale after a 45-0 defeat against Spring Mills. Quarterback Colton Henson rushed for 108 yards and three touchdowns and Derek Jalepes notched a pair of rushing scores for the Cardinals (5-4) who dominated the banged-up Colonels (2-7).
McHale’s club played without five starters, most of whom were injured in last week’s 56-0 loss to Millbrook.
For most of the week in practice, the Colonels did not have 22 players to be able to field a full offense and defense.
“We try to simulate games on Thursdays,” McHale said. “We had two coaches out there playing positions. It’s a tough gig.”
The Cardinals, battling for a spot in the West Virginia playoffs, weren’t about to take it easy on the Colonels.
Spring Mills took the opening kickoff and marched 66 yards in eight plays. Henson capped the march with a four-yard run and the extra point made it 7-0 a little more than four minutes into the game.
Henson, who began the season as a running back, is in just his third start. He’d break numerous tackles over the course of the evening.
“Each week, he’s getting a little bit better,” Spring Mills coach Derek Munson said. “We’ve kind of gone through four quarterbacks here and we’re repping another sophomore. We ask a lot of Colton on both sides of the ball and special teams. He’s a warrior and he’s going to come in here and battle. He didn’t have the reps early in the season and he’s learning on the fly.”
McHale was impressed with Henson.
“The quarterback ran the ball well,” he said. “He made a lot of people miss and we didn’t tackle well.”
The James Wood defense would spend most of the half on the field as the Colonel offense had no success.
Quarterback Michael Zebarth, in his first career varsity start, and the rest of the Colonels’ backfield spent most of the half looking at Spring Mills defenders behind the line of scrimmage. Sophomore tackle Dylan Staley led a Cardinal defense that did not give up a first down in the first half. Half of James Wood’s 16 plays went for negative yardage.
Given great field position, the Cardinals’ offense would capitalize three more times to take a 30-0 lead at the half.
Aided by a 29-yard pass from Henson to Hunter Munson on third down at the Cardinals’ 35, Spring Mills marched 67 yards on its second possession. Jalepes capped the march with a three-yard TD run. After a Wood penalty, Jalepes ran in the conversion to make it 15-0 late in the first quarter.
The teams exchanged turnovers on three consecutive plays early in the second quarter. William Crowder, making his first start on defense for the Colonels, picked off a pass deep in Wood territory to start the turnover spree. Crowder fumbled it away on the next offensive play, but Elijah Filbert recovered a Cardinal fumble on the next play to return the ball to the Colonels.
Wood had fourth-and-1 on the following possession, but Keegan DeHaven was stopped for no gain when running out of punt formation at midfield.
The Cardinals needed just three offensive plays and a 15-yard penalty to score from there. Henson’s 9-yarder capped the march and Spring Mills used a gadget pass out of extra-point formation for the two-point conversion to make it 23-0.
Spring Mills then recovered an onsides kick to get the ball back, but the Wood defense held.
The Cardinals would get the ball once more and scored again. After a partially blocked punt, Jalepes capped a 42-yard drive with a 3-yard TD.
Wood got the ball to start the second half, but Jalepes blocked a DeHaven punt to give the Cardinals the ball at the Wood 29. Henson ran in from six yards out and caught a pass for a two-point conversion to push the lead to 38-0.
Against the Spring Mills reserves, Wood finally got a first down with 3:17 left in the third quarter on a running clock. Another would follow before DeHaven would take a handoff and throw back to a wide-open Zebarth for a 23-yard gain to the Spring Mills 5.
At that point, Derek Munson put his starters back in and they held Wood two yards shy of the end zone on a fourth-down pass from the 8.
Following another blocked punt, the Cardinals capped the scoring with 1:04 left on Kameron Cale’s 31-yard TD run.
Jalepes finished with 13 carries for 74 yards. Henson was 8 of 12 for 100 yards for the Cardinals.
The Colonels gained just 72 total yards. Ryan Rupp’s 33 yards on 11 carries led the ground game, which netted just 43 yards on 29 carries.
McHale said his team scrapped, despite so many personnel losses.
“I think they knew that we’re not very good when we’ve got a bunch of people hurt,” he said. “They know when it’s like that. You’re not going to pull the wool over their eyes.”
McHale does expect his team to be fired up for the season finale next Friday as it hosts Handley.
“James Wood [can] beat Handley three years in a row,” McHale said. “These seniors could leave with at least something like that. We should have some of those [injured] guys back. That will help us a little bit.”