James Wood faces another tough challenge in Justice

WINCHESTER — A year ago, the James Wood football team rebounded nicely from a blowout loss to Sherando with a dominant win of its own against Park View in Week 2.
The Colonels — who lost 65-6 to the Warriors to open the season last week — are going to have a much harder time of repeating that this feat this year.
James Wood follows up last week’s game against the Class 4 state semifinals against Class 6 Justice High School (formerly known as J.E.B. Stuart) at 7 p.m. tonight in Falls Church.
The Wolves — who went 5-5 last season — are coming off a 47-26 season-opening win over fellow Class 6 school Annandale. The Wolves rushed for 315 yards and five touchdowns on 28 carries.
The Colonels (0-1) were originally supposed to play Park View in Sterling on Friday, but the game was canceled because the Patriots do not have a varsity team this season. Justice was supposed to have a bye this week and play Park View on Sept. 7, so it wasn’t difficult for the two schools to schedule each other instead.
The only major adjustment is that this game will be tonight. James Wood coach Ryan Morgan said Fairfax County Public Schools do not schedule events for Friday on Labor Day weekend.
Morgan points out Justice is playing on the same short week that the Colonels are, but James Wood was hit particularly hard by injuries against Sherando.
Quarterback Carson Hoberg, running back/linebacker Jackson Turner and running back/cornerback William Crowder were all injured in the first half and did not return. Two-way lineman Luke Roy was among the players who did not dress to play because of an injury. On Monday, Morgan said he’s not sure how many of the injured players will be back.
“We’ve got guys who have been getting a lot of reps at those spots,” Morgan said. “It’s football. You’ve just got to roll with the punches and do the best you can.”
Morgan turned to junior Jacob Reese (4 of 7 for 33 yards and one touchdown) at quarterback and gave most of the rushing load to sophomore Joey Vitola (11 carries, 32 yards).
Regardless of Sherando’s talent level and execution, Morgan did not think the Colonels played their best football last week.
Morgan noted on Friday just how much James Wood struggled with its communication and execution on kickoff returns.
On Monday he added that the defense needs to be a better job of reacting to what it’s seeing. The Warriors gained 427 yards last week.
“We’ve got to get lined up quicker,” Morgan said. “Sherando throws a lot of different formations at you, and there’s a lot to remember when you’re playing against them.”
Offensively, Morgan said James Wood needs to improve with pass protection. The Colonels did not surrender any sacks in 11 pass attempts, but Hoberg and Reese didn’t have the opportunity to get comfortable either.
“There were times when it was good, and there were times when we just made some silly mistakes,” Morgan said.
Morgan said Justice is a team that can make the Colonels pay for mistakes on the offensive line. The Wolves are a 3-4 defense.
“They’ve got some aggressive guys,” Morgan said. “They blitz a lot. They’re really active defensively. They don’t just sit in one thing and stay there. The offensive line is going to have to be aware of the things that are going on around them.
“They’ll walk linebackers up and drop them off. They’ll be in a two-high [safety] shell, or they’ll be in single-high and bring a strong safety down into the box.”
Morgan said the Wolves run a spread, zone-read offense. Justice is led by 6-foot-3, 190-pound junior quarterback Marco Cesarrato, who rushed 12 times for 138 yards and two touchdowns and completed 7 of 9 passes for 108 yards and one TD in the opener.
“He’s a good runner,” Morgan said. “He’s a decent-size kid, and he’s a powerful runner. He had a long touchdown run last week where he broke about three tackles. The safeties kind of converged on him, and he just kind of split them and ran right through their tackles.”
Morgan said most of Cesarrato’s passing yards came on screens last week. Receivers to watch out for are Darius Easley and Elijah Jeffries. Jeffries had 108 total yards last week, including 70 yards and a touchdown on two carries.
Morgan said junior running back and strong safety Devin Matthews (5-9, 180), who rushed for 45 yards and a touchdown on seven carries last week had a 40-yard receiving touchdown, is a player to watch on both sides of the ball.
“He flies around the field and makes things happen [on defense],” Morgan said. “He’s pretty physical and he’s got a thick lower body. He’s able to plant his foot [on offense] and get upfield. He can go laterally and then plant his foot upfield real quickly and cut back. He’s a tough runner with some speed. He’s got kind of a tough, pinball mentality.”
Morgan said Justice has good size on the offensive line, including 6-foot-2, 270-pound senior Chris Quiroga.