James Wood, Fauquier to battle in key district football clash

A year ago, the James Wood football team rolled past Fauquier 44-14 with a dominant rushing attack, piling up 383 yards on 48 carries.
This year, it’s the passing attack that’s mainly responsible for the Colonels (5-2, 2-2 Class 4 Northwestern District) being one win away from their first winning season since 2010 heading into tonight’s critical district game at Fauquier (4-3, 2-2) in Warrenton. The game was moved from a Friday to a Thursday on Sept. 30 because of a shortage of officials.
The top four teams in the Class 4 Northwestern District make the playoffs, and the loser of tonight’s game will face an arduous challenge to get there. James Wood and Fauquier are in a three-way tie for fourth along with Sherando.
In last week’s 50-21 loss to Liberty, James Wood quarterback senior Carson Hoberg and sophomore wide receiver Jaden Ashby set single-season records in yardage and touchdowns through the Colonels’ aerial attack in the spread. Hoberg has now completed 86 of 154 passes for 1,455 yards and 14 touchdowns and five interceptions and Ashby has 32 catches for 572 yards and nine TDs.
Overall, James Wood is averaging 210.9 passing yards per game compared to 170.9 rushing. Colonels head coach Ryan Morgan has liked what he’s seen from the passing attack, but he added the team’s execution will need to be better if it hopes to finish the year strong. James Wood’s passing average was brought down by a 180-yard performance last week.
“[Hoberg and Ashby] have worked hard,” Morgan said. “They have a pretty good connection, and Carson’s done a good job of familiarizing himself with the offense. There’s always things that we can do better from their end — making their reads better, and making sure they’re running their routes. Despite the fact they’re setting some school records, they’re still making some mistakes sometimes.
“Nobody’s perfect, but overall, I’m pleased with how they’ve transitioned from what our offense has been in the past when we threw the ball infrequently.”
Morgan thought Liberty’s large defensive linemen disrupted their offense, and the Colonels need to do a better job with their blocking going forward.
James Wood is also coming off a rough defensive effort in which it gave up 573 yards to the Eagles. Liberty gained 301 yards on the ground, and quarterback Dylan Bailey completed 17 of 36 passes for 272 yards and four TDs. Some of his passes were dropped.
“Defensively, we had some guys not fitting where they’re supposed to fit in the run game,” Morgan said. “People getting out of their assigned gaps, which caused a lot of issues for us, both in the run game and in the pass rush.”
James Wood (28-21 on Oct. 11) and Fauquier (21-16 last week) each have wins in the last two weeks in which they edged Culpeper County.
The Falcons got a strong effort from a player that neither Handley or Millbrook had to deal with. Ky’lil Kiawu returned last week after missing four weeks with an injury to pick up 69 yards and two TDs on 12 carries.
“[Kiawu] is a good runner,” Morgan said.
Morgan is also impressed with the athleticism of Fauquier quarterback J.T. Diehl. James Wood will counter with a defense led by linebacker Jackson Turner (66 tackles) and the safety Sam Adkins (54 tackles, four interceptions).
In addition to Hoberg and Ashby, James Wood is also led offensively by Adkins (76 carries for 681 yards, 10 TDs; 116 yards and two TDs against Fauquier last year) and William Crowder (442 total yards and five TDs receiving and rushing; 118 rush yards and a TD against the Falcons last year).
“Fauquier, they get after it on defense,” said Morgan, who considers Evan Jackson possibly the best free safety he’s seen this season. “They have small defensive linemen in general who just try and shoot through gaps. They’re quick. They’ve beat other teams off the ball. Kettle Run is a whole lot bigger up front, and they still gave Kettle Run issues [on Oct. 11] because they were so quick.
“Their linebackers will walk up and show blitz and then drop back in coverage. They try to confuse the offensive line and the quarterback. We have to make sure we’re sound. It’s a different style than last week when we were playing Liberty. Some of the things we were trying to fix from Liberty don’t necessarily apply to Fauquier.”
Morgan believes his team is ready for tonight’s challenge.
“We have good senior leadership, and I think we’re focused in,” Morgan said. “I think they would take some pride in not only having a winning season but making the playoffs. We’re going to do everything we can [today] to take one step closer to getting there.”
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