James Wood looking to build on win streak

Tonight’s 7 p.m football game at James Wood’s Kelican Stadium marks only the second game of the Class 4 Northwestern District schedule for the Colonels.
But James Wood coach Ryan Morgan is making sure his team knows just how important success is against visiting Kettle Run (0-3, 0-1 district).
The 2-1 Colonels might be coming off two straight blowout wins, but that season-opening district loss to Sherando has James Wood playing catchup in its goal to finish in the top four of the district standings. Those that do will qualify for the Region 4C playoffs.
“We told our kids if you want to make the playoffs, this is virtually a must-win situation on Friday night,” Morgan said. “They need to come out with their best foot forward to try to sneak into that playoff race.”
A year ago, it was Kettle Run that took second in the district standings, but this year’s inexperienced Cougar team has been outscored 90-53 and fell behind 34-0 early in the second quarter in last week’s 55-27 loss to Millbrook. Kettle Run had three turnovers in that 34-0 span.
James Wood has certainly shown it’s capable of putting up points in bunches. Against Skyline two weeks ago, the Colonels scored 35 points in the second quarter of a 48-14 win. Last week James Wood recorded its second-highest point total in school history in a 63-35 win over Warren County. The Colonels rolled up 465 yards and had five touchdowns that went for more than 20 yards.
Still, Morgan said everything wasn’t perfect against the Wildcats.
“There were things to fix on just about every play offensively,” Morgan said. “Defensively, there are things that we need to improve as far as our reads and our effort goes, that kind of stuff.
“It was an exciting game, but still, we allowed 35 points, which is too many, and we left some things on the field offensively and on special teams, too. There are always ways to get better, but we definitely improved from Skyline the week before as well. It was a good night overall.”
Particularly for sophomore Jaden Ashby. The wide receiver had four touchdown catches last week (28, 75, 11 and 6 yards) and also had an interception. For the season, Ashby has 14 catches for 294 yards and five TDs and he’s averaging 36.3 yards on three kickoff returns and 19.5 yards on six punt returns.
“The nice thing about Jaden is he’s got some athletic traits obviously that we like with the speed,” Morgan said. “But the biggest thing that I’ve seen the past couple of weeks is that he hasn’t shied away from the spotlight. He gets opportunities to make plays, and he makes them. Some kids might put themselves in position to make plays, but they might shy away a little from the limelight and they’re not quite sure what to do with it.
“The last couple of weeks, he’s been ready to play. He’s got the mentality that he wants to go out there and make an impact. It’s nice to have a 10th-grader with that sort of mentality.”
As for Kettle Run, one thing that coaches are noticing is the Cougars’ size up front.
“Their offensive line looks like JMU’s offensive line,” Morgan said. “They’ve got size and they’ve got really good technique. They do a good job of just being foot-to-foot in their formations and they just kind of plow right over who’s in front of them.
“That’s the biggest thing when we’re on defense. We have to scratch and claw, tooth and nail, to hold up against them and do our best.”
Kettle Run is led at the skill positions by running back Brandon Strickland (22 carries for 139 yards and three TDs last week), quarterback Elijah Chumley and wide receiver Jacob Robinson (53 yards on six catches last week). Defensively, linebacker Sam Adkins has 31 tackles for the Colonels.
In addition to Ashby, James Wood’s offense is led by quarterback Carson Hoberg (33 of 60 for 762 yards, nine TDs and three interceptions) and Adkins (22 carries for 165 yards and four TDs) at running back. The Colonels are averaging 41 points and 386.7 yards per game.
“[Kettle Run] does a good job of game-planning some blitzes,” Morgan said. “We’ve got some smaller offensive lineman who are really going to have to focus on their technique this week. They’ve got 270-pound, 290-pound defensive lineman. We’ve got to figure out a way to block those guys up front.”
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