Millbrook defense fuels win over James Wood

WINCHESTER — The Millbrook football team wasn’t able to generate any of the explosive offensive plays it’s known for on Friday night.
On a night in which the defense dominated and the Pioneers frequently had great field position, they didn’t need them.
Millbrook was held to season-lows in points and yards at James Wood’s Kelican Stadium, but the Pioneers scored touchdowns on all three of their possessions that started in Colonels’ territory to earn a 24-8 Class 4 Northwestern District victory.
James Wood’s strong defensive effort and a field made slick and muddy by rain resulted in a 303-yard performance for Millbrook, which did not have a play go for longer than 26 yards.
But the Pioneers made the critical plays they needed to stay perfect at 8-0 overall and 4-0 in the district.
“With the rain that came this week, I figured [the field conditions] were going to be like this,” Millbrook quarterback and cornerback Isaac Brown said. “But we still executed well and came out with the win.”
Millbrook’s defense (187 yards allowed, two interceptions) and special teams helped create the short fields that the Pioneers took full advantage of.
The last major stand by Millbrook’s defense came when it forced a three-and-out from the James Wood (2-5, 0-3) 10-yard line with 8:28 to go. Leading 16-8, the Pioneers took over at the Colonel 40 after a 30-yard punt.
A 12-yard completion by Brown (15 of 24 for 221 yards, 12-yard rushing touchdown) on third-and-6 moved the Pioneers to the 24.
Two plays later from the 12, Brown connected with Jordan Jackson on a hook pattern in which Jackson stopped and turned at the 5 before heading into the end zone. A two-point run by Savon Smith (eight catches for 111 yards, 30 rushing yards on six carries) made it 24-8 with 6:32 left.
The Colonels were unable to mount a comeback, with Brandon Shingleton recovering Sam Nicol’s ensuing squib kickoff that bounced hard off a Colonel player’s chest at the 50.
It was another impressive effort by Millbrook’s defense. The Pioneers have only allowed eight points in their last 10 quarters of play, shutting out Kettle Run in the second half two weeks ago and Handley the entire game last week.
James Wood had an impressive 11-play, 76-yard touchdown drive that tied the game at 8-8 with 5:09 to go in the second quarter (Jackson Turner had a two-yard TD run and two-point conversion run to cap things off). But otherwise, the Pioneers yielded little.
“We were playing our gaps and were handling them straight up,” Millbrook senior defensive lineman Myles Bruce said. “We had to be more physical than them, because they’re a big team, and make sure we cut down on their passing game.”
Bruce had perhaps the most important tackle of the game for the Pioneers, ripping down Turner (17 carries, 43 yards) when he tried to bounce outside to the right on fourth-and-3 at the Pioneers’ 19 with 4:43 left in the third quarter to keep Millbrook’s lead at 16-8.
That stop came on the heels of James Wood defensive tackle Dominic Revetta’s second fumble recovery of the game on the first play from scrimmage in the second half.
Jayden Johnson came up with a huge play in the first quarter, intercepting a third-and-10 pass from Carson Hoberg (8 of 14 for 65 yards) in Pioneer territory and returning to the Colonel 47.
Gavin Evosirch (73 combined rushing and receiving yards) had an eight-yard TD run on the ensuing drive to make it 8-0 (Smith had the two-point run).
After James Wood tied the game at 8, Jackson (three catches, 63 yards) made his first big play of the game, returning the ensuing kickoff 32 yards to the James Wood 46. Brown rewarded his effort by scoring on a 12-yard keeper up the middle after faking a jet sweep handoff on fourth-and-2, and Brown’s two-point conversion run made it 16-8 with 3:14 to go in the quarter.
Millbrook coach Josh Haymore said the field conditions didn’t make it easy for the Pioneers, who played without tailback Noah Robinson for the rest of the game after he left following the first series.
“If we could have eliminated those turnovers, I think we would gave scored a little bit better,” Haymore said. “I think the weather played more in their favor because they don’t throw the ball as much as we do and they get downhill more. But I’m happy with the win. Our kids played hard.”
James Wood certainly gave a great effort.
“Focusing on that outside run was something we needed to this week,” Revetta said. “Having a little muddier field kind of helped, but our guys did our job and stepped up. We played with heart, more heart than I’ve seen all year.”
The Pioneers definitely had a difficult time finding space on the edges. James Wood coach Ryan Morgan said defensive coordinator Brian Thomas did an excellent job of preparing his players.
“He kind of simplified things so the defensive players didn’t have to think too much,” Morgan said. “He made sure the guys were lined up and understood their responsibilities. There were some plays where we knew what to do, but they’ve got some better athletes than most teams do.
“But we fought hard and gave them a good game, probably their best of the season so far. It’s frustrating to lose, but I’m proud of the kids.”
Tylor McBride added 38 yards on seven carries for James Wood. Hoberg had to leave late in the game because of an injury, but Morgan said he doesn’t think it’s serious.
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