James Wood pits winning streak against unbeaten Liberty

To say that the James Wood football team has reached the meat of the Class 4 Northwestern District football season may be a little bit of an understatement.
Starting with tonight's game at unbeaten Liberty in Bealeton, the Colonels will tackle four opponents who are a combined 20-5, including 10-3 in district action.
With four regional playoff spots up for grabs and head-to-head records being the first tiebreaker, district wins are at the utmost importance for the Colonels (5-1, 2-1), who have won five straight.
“When you start off the season with Sherando and you lose your first district game, there's not a whole lot of wiggle room to endure a loss,” Morgan said. “We're at the point in the season where like every game is a must-win now. If we lose a game, it brings a head-to-head picture up. If we end up tied with Sherando for one of those four spots, it wouldn't work out well for us. Every game is a must-win. The playoffs are essentially here for us.”
The Colonels draw a tough task in facing the Eagles (6-0, 3-0) who are coming off a big 20-13 win over Sherando. Liberty held the Warriors scoreless over the final three quarters and rallied from a 13-6 deficit.
Eagles quarterback Dylan Bailey tossed a pair of touchdown passes against the Warriors, one to running back Justin Lawson. Dangerous wide receiver Tre'Von White scored the winning TD on a reverse.
“They're very athletic,” Morgan said of the Eagles. “They have a lot of skill level. [Last year] they had a couple of people who could hurt you with speed. This year, it seems like it has multiplied. They have some good athletes and they are very aggressive up front.
“We were watching [film of] their game against Sherando and their center and defensive line is physical. They have a lot of physical guys and they blitz from the second level. Their linebackers like to get downhill. Yeah, they are fast and physical. They are going to be a tough team.”
The Colonels have been flirting with disaster the past two weeks against winless teams. Two weeks ago, they rallied from four points down to score two touchdowns in the final minutes of a 41-32 win over Independence. Last week, they built a 28-7 lead, but needed a goal-line stop on the final play to edge Culpeper County 28-21.
Morgan said his squad has learned from those two contests.
“Early in the season, our offense was performing at high level. The last couple of games, our defense has stepped up at key times,” he said. “It's taught the kids we need everybody — offense, defense, special teams. Every unit is in it together. Sometimes if one unit is not getting the job done, the other two phases of the game need to step up.
“Offense did some good things in the first half [against Culpeper]. Defense got a crunch-time stop late in the game to keep them out of the end zone. Relying on each other and picking up each other is needed. It's important to build that trust throughout the season.”
Offensively, the Colonels are led by running back Sam Adkins, who has gained 639 yards on 65 carries (a 9.8 average) and has scored 10 touchdowns. Quarterback Carson Hoberg (75 of 132, 1,256 yards, 11 TDs) likes to throw to Jaden Ashby and William Crowder, who have combined for 50 catches for 745 yards and eight scores. Crowder also has rushed for four TDs.
Even though the Colonels have put up solid numbers in their five-game winning streak, Morgan said he needed to take the offense back to basics as far as finishing blocks and assignments.
“There were some times last week where there were some inexplicable busts on our parts, either not blocking the right person or not making the right reads,” he said. “There are fundamental things we need to go back to.
“Early in the year, we were teaching and reemphasizing some of the mistakes that we were making or that we fixed. If you let things go and if you don't concentrate on the basic fundamentals, they get lost and people start to revert to what is easy. We need to go back and reteach and refocus some of the things we were teaching early.”
Liberty will put those fundamentals to a test for both the offense and defense, which is led by Adkins (43 tackles), Jackson Turner (41) and Kevin Brown (32). The Eagles lead the series 12-1 and have won six straight, including 32-23 last season.
“We have to stop penetration up front,” Morgan said of tonight's keys for the Colonels. “We have to make sure they are not getting into our backfield. We have to be really sound with our eyes and not let our eyes get hung up in the backfield because of the play action or other things they run. If they get behind us, those two or three guys can hurt us.”
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