James Wood football preparing for different treatment after Frederick County sweep

WINCHESTER — At the end of James Wood’s first day of football practice on Monday, Colonels head coach Ryan Morgan made sure his players knew that the circumstances for the 2021 fall season are going to be a lot different than what they’ve previously experienced.
“You can’t get stagnant just because you beat Millbrook and Sherando,” said the fifth-year head coach to the players as they sat on a hill next to the fence surrounding their practice field. “You’re going to have a target on your backs. You have to have your heads on straight.”
James Wood only played two games in the 2021 spring season, but they were momentous. On April 21, the Colonels defeated Sherando 36-20 for its first victory over the Warriors since 2008. On April 27, James Wood beat Millbrook 55-42 for its first victory over the Pioneers since 2014. That victory gave James Wood its first sweep of its Frederick County rivals since 2008.
Colonels senior wide receiver/defensive back Ryan King said the Colonels will gladly take the figurative bull’s-eye on their jerseys.
“It’s better than being the team that everybody runs over,” King said. “I like being the team that everybody wants to beat.”
James Wood only played two games in seven days last year in part because Frederick County chose to start its football season more than a month after the Virginia High School League season commenced. Now the Colonels have to prove themselves over the long haul with 10 games in 11 weeks. The Colonels open at Sherando on Aug. 27 following scrimmages vs. Hampshire (W.Va.) on Aug. 13 and at Boonsboro (Md.) on Aug. 20.
Morgan believes his team has the type of leadership that can help the Colonels build off what that they did in the spring. Only 10 of James Wood’s 40 players in the spring were seniors, and Morgan has six returning starters on offense and eight on defense.
Morgan said players like King, wide receiver/defensive back Jaden Ashby, inside linebacker Blake Hounshell and center Roman Solosky are among the seniors who should provide strong leadership.
“It’s going to be different for us, because we haven’t really faced that situation [of multiple local opponents looking to avenge losses] in several years here,” said Morgan, whose first year with the James Wood program came in 2008. “It’s going to be a new challenge for them and us as a coaching staff to keep them focused.
“I might be worried with some senior classes about whether they would lose focus or lose concentration. But these are a lot of really good students. They get really good grades in school. We don’t have discipline issues with this senior class. Hopefully, they can lead us in the right direction.”
Morgan said James Wood has about 70 players out for football this year between varsity and JV. That’s more than the 57 who came out for spring football this year, but still short of the typical 80 to 85 that James Wood had during the pre-COVID-19 seasons. Morgan said with no football season for middle-schoolers in 2020-21 due to COVID-19, some children might have turned away from football, at least temporarily.
“Maybe we can continue recruiting some kids,” Morgan said.
For the most part, Morgan liked what he saw on Monday from the kids he has now.
“Today went well,” Morgan said. “There were some glitches. Some of those ninth-graders haven’t played football in two years, so they’re learning how to practice and those kinds of things. Our coaches have done a really good job this summer of preparing the kids at workouts.
“Also, when you’re coming back from having just played in April, there’s a lot less time to forget things. Luckily, some of our terminology, the kids are already answering questions that they would have taken three or four days to learn in a normal year where they would have been off eight months or so.”
King said it definitely meant a great deal to have a normal start to the year, practicing in August instead of wondering if they were even going to have a season at this time last year.
“It feels great to be back out here after going through COVID and everything,” King said. “It feels good to be out here with our teammates and not having to worry about serious precautions and having to quarantine.”
Ashby’s summer has included trips to camps at Penn State, West Virginia, Coastal Carolina and James Madison, and featured a 4.4-second 40-yard dash at one camp. Ashby starred for the Colonels in the spring with 320 rushing/receiving yards and four touchdowns.
“Everyone’s getting better, and everyone’s getting their reps,” Ashby said. “I think by the time games come, we’ll be ready to compete.”
Among the things James Wood will have to figure out over the coming weeks is who will be playing quarterback. In the spring, the Colonels had a lot of success running the ball with whoever was taking snaps from the center, with the graduated Jayson Herndon carrying the ball 36 times for 127 yards and five touchdowns and Ashby getting many of his rushing touches (he had 14 total) on direct snaps from center. Herndon also threw 28 passes, completing 11 for 206 yards.
James Wood is currently looking at junior Jared Neal and sophomore Trevor “Deuce” Strosnider to play that position. Neal didn’t play last year due to an injury suffered during basketball season and Strosnider was the JV quarterback.
“They’re both really good kids,” Morgan said. “They’re smart and have good grades, they both have good athletic skills, and they take good command of the offense.”
— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Follow on Twitter @WinStarSports1