Defense shines as James Wood whips Kettle Run

WINCHESTER — Following last week's 63-35 blowout victory over Warren County, James Wood coach Ryan Morgan told his team that its defense had to get better.
What a difference a week makes.
James Wood completely dominated and shut down Kettle Run's offense until the Cougars' final two drives of the game, long after the outcome had been decided. The result was the Colonels' third consecutive blowout victory, a 39-20 Class 4 Northwestern District romp Friday night at Kelican Stadium in a game that wasn't as close as the final score indicated.
"The defense played awesome, our defensive coaches came up with a great game plan," Morgan said. "We told our kids they had to play 'big boy' football this week because Kettle Run doesn't mess around up front. They've got some huge dudes who are going places. I'm proud of those guys, they knew they were going to have to play tough and they're going to be sore [Saturday]."
The Colonels (3-1, 1-1 district) scored three third-quarter touchdowns to blow open a close game they led 15-7 at the half.
"The first half they had a really good game plan," Morgan said of the Cougars (0-4, 0-2). "They made some really good adjustments from some things they saw. We were able to make some adjustments in the second half and the get the ball to some of our playmakers."
Through three quarters the story of the game was the James Wood defense. The Colonels only allowed six first downs through three quarters and only two the entire first half. The unit also forced two turnovers, recorded two sacks and had several other tackles for losses.
Kettle Run's first 11 possessions ended in either a punt or a turnover and running back Brandon Strickland was held to 26 yards rushing in the first half. Strickland would finish the game with 110 yards and a TD on 21 carries, but a good bit of that came on the Cougars' final two scoring drives against many of the Colonels' reserves.
Offensively, it was business as usual for the Colonels. The combination of quarterback Carson Hoberg to Jaden Ashby connected for two more touchdown passes and junior kicker Chris Garcia drilled three field goals.
Already leading 2-0 thanks to a safety when the ball was snapped through the end zone, James Wood got into the end zone for the first time when Hoberg and Ashby connected for 28 yards midway through the first quarter. Garcia made it 12-0 when he hit a 25-yard field goal with just over seven minutes remaining in the half.
On the ensuing kickoff, Kettle Run got the only offense it had for most of the night. AJ Williams mishandled Garcia's kick and had to retreat back to the 2 to retrieve it. He gathered the ball, then found a lane and it was off to the races 98 yards to get the Cougars on the board at 12-7.
With just over a minute left in the half, Garcia drilled a 38-yard field goal, with plenty to spare, for a 15-7 halftime lead.
Wood took the second half kickoff and just pounded it down a short field. The Colonels went 48 yards in eight plays and took a 22-7 on William Crowder's seven-yard TD run.
With the defense keeping the Cougars in check, the Wood offense got to once again display just how explosive it can be.
On consecutive possessions late in the third quarter the Colonels went 65 yards on just one play to blow open the game.
The first drive took Sam Adkins 12 seconds to burst right up the gut, break free and race 65 yards for a 29-7 advantage. After the defense recovered a fumble at the Colonels' 35, Hoberg hit Ashby in stride on the next play and he easily won the footrace for a 36-7 lead.
Early in the fourth quarter, Garcia added the final points for the Colonels with a 25-yard field goal and a 39-7 cushion.
"We just take one game at a time," Morgan said of the romp. "We've had some early success in the non-district schedule before and struggled later. We've done a good job offensively, we've got some explosive guys that have kind of grown up and figured it out.
"Those one-play drives, that's just athletes," he added. "It's getting them out in space and making people miss. It's fun to watch. It's fun to have some playmakers. Hopefully, we can keep building some confidence but we have to take it slow."
Adkins finished the night with 134 yards on 11 carries and one score. Hoberg completed 16 of 29 passes for 255 yards and two touchdowns while Ashby had six catches for 138 yards.
The Colonels next travel to Independence on Friday.
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