High School Football Preview: Colonels serving up beef

WINCHESTER — A team’s performance at the line of scrimmage is always critical to success in football, and James Wood might have the recipe to make a big impact up front this year.

“Both our [offensive] tackles are 6-foot-5, and Dominic [Revetta] at center is [329] pounds,” James Wood first-year head coach Ryan Morgan said. “We’ve got some beef.”

And because of the Colonels’ overall depth up front, James Wood’s offensive line has a chance to take advantage of its size for a longer stretch of time.

The Colonels’ two starting offensive guards won’t start on defense, and James Wood can give Revetta a breather on offense. Last year’s starting center, Luke Roy, will back Revetta up at center and start alongside him on defense.

“We’re trying to keep our players fresh,” said James Wood sophomore running back William Crowder, who led the Colonels in rushing with 368 yards on 75 carries (4.9 average) and three touchdowns last year.

“I think depth is going to be a big thing for us this fall,” said Morgan, who takes over a Colonel program that went 2-8 overall (1-3 Northwestern District) under former coach Mark McHale last year. “Last year, the same guys who were on the defensive line were on the offensive line, so they got gassed pretty easily.”

In addition to the 6-foot Revetta — a second team All-Conference 21 West selection at guard last year — James Wood will start junior Zach Herbert (6-5, 280) at left tackle, senior Jim Ramey (5-10, 215) at left guard, junior Walker See (6-2, 227) at right guard and junior Chance Grove (6-5, 249) at right tackle.

None of the players who started the season on the offensive line last year were six feet tall.

Senior Jordan Loy (6-0, 180) — who played some offensive guard last year — will be another factor up front as a strong blocker at tight end, and senior Elijah Filbert (6-1, 195) will also see time at that position.

Morgan — who is also the team’s offensive line coach — said that unit has the potential to be a strength, but they’re not where they need to be, yet. Morgan said they’re still getting used to the new terminology that he’s given them to learn.

“We’re making different calls previously than we were with some of the blocks,” said Morgan last week. “They’re picking it up at about the speed I expected them to, but right now they’re a half-step slower than I want them to be.”

Morgan said Friday’s scrimmage against Musselman (W.Va.) showed that the pass protection needs to be stronger.

“They were tougher up front and they were a little more blitz-heavy [than Hampshire of West Virginia, James Wood’s first scrimmage opponent],” said Morgan on Monday. “We have to make sure we’re driving our feet.”

At quarterback, James Wood is still deciding between two candidates to start — senior Mike Zebarth, who made one start last year, and Carson Hoberg, a sophomore transfer from Oregon.

Morgan said there are several players he can turn to at running back. Crowder — last year’s Conference 21 West champion in the 100 meters — is one of them, but Morgan is also looking at senior Mark Cisler and sophomore Jackson Turner, who has impressed Morgan with his play in the scrimmages.

“We have different plays for each of them,” Morgan said. “They can all run everything, but some of them are better at certain things.”

Senior Tyler Arnold (12 carries, 98 yards, two TDs against Skyline last year) and junior Tylor McBride could also see time in the backfield.

At wide receiver, James Wood will feature junior Jackson Clyburn, junior Treyven Mendel and senior Zyven Coffman.

Clyburn was the JV quarterback last year, and Morgan has been impressed with how well he’s learned his new position.

“He’s picked up the nuances of the position pretty quickly,” said Morgan last Wednesday. “He’s been blocking well, and he’s won both of our running competitions. The reward for winning is that they have to stay and do more conditioning. He knows he’s going to have to work more, but he still wants to be out front.”

Morgan thinks the defensive line will be a strength because, just like the offensive line, that group will be fresher with more depth.

The defensive line is headed by Revetta at tackle, where he made 49 tackles and led the team in tackles for loss (12) and sacks (four) while earning second team all-conference honors last year. Roy (16 tackles, two sacks) and Grove are playing tackle and end, and Filbert (33 tackles, three sacks) will be an end.

Junior Kevin Martin could also see time in the Colonels’ 4-4 formation.

“We’ve got a lot more people we can rotate in, and a lot of young guys who are pushing [the veterans],” Roy said. “It makes people want to get the job done.”

At linebacker, James Wood has a three-man rotation for its two inside linebacker spots — Cisler (21 tackles), Loy (16 tackles) and Turner.

“He just goes 100 miles an hour all the time,” Morgan said of Turner. “He’s one of the smarter kids we’ve had come through here. He’s a sophomore, but you don’t have to tell him things twice.”

The Colonels also have a three-man rotation at outside linebacker in Arnold (24 tackles), senior Mason Feathers and senior Chase Bayne.

Senior Josh Kesner (17 tackles) will play at safety. Clyburn, McBride and Mandel also will play in the secondary.

“We’ve got some good playmakers in the backfield,” Morgan said. “These guys have good ballskills and they can tackle.”

Senior Jacob Sortino will handle kicking and punting duties for the second straight year for James Wood (32.4 average on 34 punts last year).

With what they have in place, the Colonels believe they have a chance for a much stronger season. In 2016, James Wood was outgained by an average of 145.5 yards per game (324.7 to 179.2) and outscored by an average of nearly 20 points per game (30.0 to 10.1).

“I think we can have a winning season,” Crowder said. “We have a new head coach, we’re more conditioned and fit. We’re going to be able to push all four quarters.”

James Wood will open the season at 7:30 p.m. on Friday against Sherando.

— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Follow on Twitter @WinStarSports1