Football preview: Hedgesville (W.Va.) at James Wood

By WALT MOODY | The Winchester Star

When: Today, 7 p.m.

Where: Jerry Kelican Stadium

Records: Hedgesville Eagles (3-1); James Wood Colonels (2-2).

Last week: Hedgesville beat Jefferson (W.Va.) 42-20, James Wood lost to Warren County 35-8.

Last year: Hedgesville won 39-14.

Players to watch: James Wood — QB Mike Zebarth, OL/DL Dominic Revetta, RB/LB Tyler Arnold, WR/DB Tylor McBride; Hedgesville — QB Jason Plotner, WR/S N’yjere Smith, RB/DB Keenan Smoot, WR Malakai Brown.

Preview: James Wood coach Ryan Morgan admits his team did not practice well before last week’s game at Warren County and it showed in a 35-8 loss.

He didn’t have to emphasize that point to his players.

“They were pretty disappointed because they know that they can play better and should have played better last Friday,” he said. “We had one of our better practices of the year [Tuesday]. The kids were upbeat, hustling and were being vocal.”

The Colonels are going to have to play much better to contend with Hedgesville, which is off to a 3-1 start in the quest for its first winning record since 1997.

Quarterback Jason Plotner leads a high-flying Eagles offense that will fire the ball all over the field. Hedgesville runs a spread attack, taking advantage of its speed and Plotner’s arm. Plotner threw a pair of TD passes last week and set up two short TD runs in the 42-20 win over Jefferson. The previous week, Plotner threw for 406 yards and six TDs in a 61-28 win over Mountain Ridge.

“They have three receivers stacked on one side and two receivers stacked on the other,” Morgan said. “They’re going to throw the ball around and try to get us in space and try to make us tackle in the open field. Hopefully we can step up to the challenge.”

Plotner spreads the ball around. N’yjere Smith, who had a kickoff return for a TD last week, and Malakai Brown are two of his favorite targets. Running back Keenan Smoot had a pair of TD runs last week.

“He’s got some guys he likes to get the ball to, but they just don’t have one main receiver,” Morgan said. “They’ve got a couple of guys they put in at running back who can run the ball pretty well. They spread you out on defense and when they try to run the ball there aren’t many guys left in the middle of the defense.”


Offensively, the Colonels may have to play without leading rusher William Crowder, who was injured last week. Wood has used several running backs throughout the season, so if Crowder can’t play the Colonels have options.

“The fact that we’ve got several guys rotating through, hopefully when Friday night comes it won’t be too big of a leap for them to see some more snaps,” Morgan said.

The first-year head coach expects to see plenty of Eagles defenders crowding the line of scrimmage to top the Colonels’ split wing-T.

“They’re going to put a bunch of guys in the box and dare us to throw the football and try to make some plays in the backfield,” Morgan said.

The Colonels will rely on quarterback Mike Zebarth, who threw for Wood’s lone score against Warren County.

“He’s pretty calm under pressure,” Morgan said of the senior. “He kind of welcomes the competition. I think he’s ready for it.”


— Compiled by Walt Moody