Hedgesville hangs on to top Colonels

By JIM LAISE | Special to The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — Last week James Wood High School football coach Ryan Morgan said he had trouble getting the minds of his Colonels into the game.

It turned out to be a 35-8 defeat to Warren County.

Friday night before a Hall of Fame Night audience, the rookie head man for the Colonels had no worries.

“Their heads were definitely in it tonight,” said Morgan.

Indeed, Class 3A Hedgesville (W.Va.) knocked off James Wood 28-23 with the Colonels throwing into the end zone to attempt to pull out what would have been an improbable win.

The visiting Eagles (4-1) held a 28-16 lead in the fourth quarter when the Colonels (2-3) scored with 2:13 left and made the extra point to pull within five.

Even sophomore Luke Esparza made the second of the sophomore’s two interceptions on the night but James Wood could get nothing going in the end.

With the ball and with 62 seconds left, Morgan inserted senior Mike Zebarth into the game, but the veteran and his cohorts could not muster another score as Hedgesville headed home with its third win in a row.

Morgan said he started sophomore Carson Hoberg at quarterback because of the lithe fellow’s “athleticism … but I thought we needed Mike’s experience there in the end.”

Hedgesville wide receiver N’yjere Smith caught three passes for 135 yards and two scores. He also picked off Zebarth at the end to seal it for the West Virginians.

It was Smith, who entered the game with 218 yards receiving and three scores, began the tallying on the first offensive play of the game.

He took a pass from senior Jason Plotner and rambled most of the 88 yards for the aerial score. The kick was good and the Eagles held the roost by 7-0 just 25 seconds in the game.

“That Smith is quite an athlete,” said Morgan. “The thing about him is, he catches the ball, but he’s so strong, he can break tackles.”

Esparza, a reserve who has bubbled to the top of the depth chart at one safety, picked off his first throw with 7:26 left in the first quarter.

Wood turned that into an 18-yard scoring reception to Jordan Loy from Carson Hoberg. The little QB then snuck over for the 2-pointer and an 8-7 lead.

Hedgesville answered with a 26-yard field goal by Finnegan Hall for a 10-8 advantage.


James Wood’s defense dug in and thought it was out of the half.

But Hedgesville coach Joey Yurish called timeout to set up a play. Jason Plotner dropped back and found Smith who angled his way to the far goal line and wormed in for the 47-yard TD. The kick was blocked but the visitors led 16-8

Morgan decided to keep it on the ground and ran off a 20-play drive that was helped along with penalties on Hedgesville.

Hoberg found Samuel Atkins for a 6-yard passing touchdown. The 2-pointer was good for a 16-all tie.

But on the arm of Plotner the Eagles forged a comeback. With him finding several receivers, he finally called Keenan Smoot’s number. He rushed in from the 29 and, even though the kick failed, it was 22-16.

Chase DeLauter caught a short pass from Plotner for the Eagles’ final points.

The Colonels are off next week. Following the bye week, James Wood hosts Liberty, who defeated Sherando 31-28 on Friday to remain unbeaten, on Oct. 6 at Kelican Stadium.