James Wood keeping winning streak in perspective

Being on a winning streak is great, especially when you haven’t had one for awhile.
With last week’s 39-21 win over Kettle Run, James Wood has won three consecutive games for the first time since 2015.
While some fans may be enjoying something that’s been rare, Colonels coach Ryan Morgan is trying to keep things in perspective for his team. After tonight’s road clash against first-year program Independence, James Wood (3-1, 1-1) still has five key Class 4 Northwestern District clashes. Of those five games, three come against Millbrook, Handley, and Liberty, who are a combined 11-1 and unbeaten in district play. James Wood’s three non-district wins have come against teams who are a combined 3-10.
“There seems to be some excitement from the students, teachers and the school, which that I’m glad our football team can bring,” Morgan said of the win streak. “It’s nice to bring some excitement and school spirit, but it always seems like you’re just around the corner from another tough opponent. We try not to get too wrapped up in that.”
Morgan is the first to admit that his team still needs plenty of work. Even though the Colonels built a 39-7 cushion before Kettle Run scored a pair of fourth-quarter TDs against reserves, Morgan was disappointed with his offense.
“Last week, we weren’t very crisp offensively,” Morgan said. “If you look at the film, there are mistakes that you make every week, but we just weren’t very crisp offensively. We weren’t clicking last week and that showed on the field.”
On defense, that was another story. His first-team unit did not give up a score (Kettle Run’s first TD was on a kickoff return) and dominated the line of scrimmage.
“Defensively, the kids are starting to figure out the effort that is needed,” Morgan said. “The coaches are holding them accountable and they really stepped up last week. Our big guys up front and our linebackers really played an excellent game against Kettle Run who is big and strong. Our kids kept playing hard and played the best game up front we have all season.”
While it has yet to win any of its five games, Independence has been competitive. The Class 3 Tigers have lost four games by 11 points or less.
They are led by quarterback Brian Courtney, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound sophomore who has rushed for 789 yards and 12 TDs, while throwing for 981 yards and six scores.
“Independence’s quarterback Brian Courtney is a very good athlete,” Morgan said. “From what we’ve heard, he’s one of the strongest kids on the team, if not the strongest kid on the team. We’ve seen them play, once in person and we have a couple of films on them, and he just is like the ‘Energizer Bunny.’ He just keeps going and going and going. He is going to be a tough football player to stop because he is big and strong.”
After seeing Independence struggle on defense in its season-opener (a 53-42 loss to Skyline), Morgan says the Tigers have made their biggest improvement on defense.
“They’re starting to figure things out a little bit,” Morgan said. “… They had things going offensively right off the bat, but defensively I’ve seen improvement, understanding their responsibilities and alignment. … They run to the football. I was pointing out to the kids on film that when opponents throw the ball, you see 11 guys turn and sprint to go find the ball carrier. They are a quick defense and they don’t let up.”
The Tigers will certainly face a challenge from the Colonels, who are averaging 50 points per game during their winning streak.
Colonels quarterback Carson Hoberg has thrown for 990 yards and 11 scores. His favorite target is Jaden Ashby, who has 20 catches and seven TDs. Running back Sam Adkins is averaging a whopping 9.4 yards in his 32 carries and has scored five times.
Morgan doesn’t expect a cakewalk. He said the crowd was very enthusiastic at the season-opener with Skyline.
“They’re in every single game,” Morgan said. “No team so far has pulled away from them. … They won’t go away. It won’t be an easy time on Friday night.”
Morgan says there are a couple of keys he’s looking at tonight.
“Offensively we want to fix some of the mistakes we’ve been making with lack of crispness in route running, identifying some reads and those kinds of things,” he said.
“Defensively, we need to fly to the football and get to the quarterback. He’s going to run the ball a lot. He does a good job of lowering his shoulder and wearing out defenses. We have to make sure we are flying to the football with all 11 guys and that we are wrapping him up. They have some other talented guys, but he is their workhorse.”
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