James Wood breaks late tie to beat Sherando again

STEPHENS CITY — While addressing the football team after Monday's practice, James Wood assistant coach Brian Thomas said, "People have called [our win over Sherando in April] the Fluke Bowl."

On Friday night, the Colonels served notice that they are a legitimate force.

James Wood broke a 20-20 tie with two Jaden Ashby touchdowns in the last nine minutes and went on to beat Sherando 34-20 in their season and Class 4 Northwestern District opener at Arrowhead Stadium.


Colonels players chanted "NOT A FLUKE!" as they gathered in the end zone closest to the stadium scoreboard after the game. Wins by other area teams have been few and far between against Sherando over the years, so for James Wood to do it twice in five months over the perennial football power is a pretty big statement — the Colonels only had two wins over the Warriors in the previous 27 years total. James Wood's last win over Sherando before April came in 2008.  

"We worked our butts off," said Ashby, a senior who scored four of James Wood's five touchdowns and had 198 total rushing and receiving yards. "Coming in, we knew we were going to get some momentum and get going, and we were going to beat them again."

James Wood outgained Sherando 476-261 in total yards and played impressively on the line of scrimmage on both offense and defense.

Sherando had a hard time slowing down senior Wes Brondos (221 yards and a touchdown on 31 carries) and Ashby (103 yards and three TDs on 13 carries). And a Colonels defense that stacked the box shut down the Warriors running attack (outside of freshman Micah Carlson's 49-yard TD run, they had just 94 yards on 25 carries) and got plenty of pressure on Sherando quarterback Dylan Rodeffer (8 of 24 for 115 yards and one TD.)

Most importantly, James Wood showed it can answer the call when the pressure is on.

James Wood took a 20-13 lead on a 13-yard TD run by Brondos and an extra point kick by Hunter Barnhart (he made 4 of 4 attempts) to complete a 10-play, 79-yard drive with 10:03 left.

But Sherando gave itself a huge shot of momentum when AJ Santiago (four catches for 94 yards, including a leaping deep 76-yard catch-and-run TD in the first half to tie the game at 13) returned the ensuing kickoff 43 yards to the Colonel 49. Then freshman backup quarterback Carlson took a shotgun snap and ran 49 yards down the right sideline for a TD. Cody Crittenden's extra point (he made 2 of 2 attempts) tied the game at 20.

The Colonels took over at their own 29 after the kickoff. A 14-yard pass from Jared Neal (7 of 11 for 146 yards, one TD) to Ashby (four catches, 95 yards, 78-yard TD after taking a short pass over the middle and turning upfield to make it 13-6) and two Brondos runs totaling 20 yards set the stage for a jet sweep to Ashby on second-and-1 from the Warriors' 37-yard line.

A Sherando player had a chance to tackle Ashby in the backfield, who was running right to left. But Ashby shook it off, then turned upfield and started running off tackle on the right side. He blitzed through and past the defense for a touchdown that made it 27-20 with 8:09 left.

That play was one of many in which James Wood picked up huge chunks of yardage after contact. Usually it was the 5-foot-8, 180-pound Brondos who was shrugging and bouncing off contact for big gains. 

"I've been waiting for this for three years," said Brondos, referencing his frustration at being stopped at the 2-yard line in a two-point loss to Sherando as a JV player as a freshman. "I just cannot believe what happened to us tonight. I have to thank my line. It could not have happened without them."

The offensive line was just as thankful for Brondos.  

"We were really confident," said senior two-way linemen Hunter Franks. "We were just clicking. Everybody was hitting, everybody did what they're supposed to.

"Wes runs likes a beast. He gets hit by two, three guys, and he just keeps going. That's what really helped us win this game. He doesn't stop on first contact. He just keeps going."

Sherando coach Jake Smith, making his head coaching debut for the Warriors, wasn't pleased to see so much yardage after contact.

"We had everything fit well," Smith said. "We just didn't finish tackles."

After Ashby's touchdown, there would be no quick-strike response from the Warriors this time.

Barnhart's deep kickoff bounced inside the 10, and with no guarantee the ball would go into the end zone Santiago picked it up at the 1 near the left pylon. Santiago barely got forward before he was swarmed, and a blocking penalty moved the ball half the distance to the goal and put Sherando at its own 4.

A one-yard rushing loss and two incomplete passes forced a punting attempt from Carlson, who boomed his previous two punts but only managed a 17-yarder from the end zone under heavy pressure. Two plays later, Ashby had his second rushing TD from the Wildcat formation, this one from 20 yards out, to give James Wood a 34-20 lead with 6:08 left. 

Sherando made one last push, but Rodeffer's deep pass into the end zone down the right seam for Cam Sullivan sailed too far in front of him on fourth-and-9 from the James Wood 35 with 4:11 left. The Colonels ran out the clock from there.

It was a strong second half from James Wood. The game was tied 13-13 at halftime, and the Colonels did not feel like they played to their potential at that point. Six penalties for 50 yards played a role in limiting the Colonels who  had a 250-145 yard edge.

"It felt a little bit like the spring game where we played Sherando, where we were making a lot of mistakes and shooting ourselves in the foot," James Wood coach Ryan Morgan said. "We told the players at the halftime that we did not play well, and we were still tied. If we were able to get going and get some things clicking, and be a little bit more consistent, then the second half, we thought we could come out and win.

"The kids stepped it up in the second half. The offensive line took over. Wes was running really hard despite cramping a little bit. He really toughed it out."

James Wood's defense was plenty impressive as well.

Outside of Sherando's second drive of the game — an 11-play, 58-yard drive capped by a two-yard Aydan Willis TD run off a direct snap on fourth and goal that made it 6-0 with 2:22 left in the first quarter — the Warriors had a lot of trouble sustaining offense.

Sherando's Zach Symons recovered a pooch kickoff at the Wood 33 after that Willis TD, but the Warriors couldn't advance the ball and turned it over on downs at the Colonel 41 when Rodeffer changed his mind about a pooch punt with some pressure coming, and was sacked.

The Warriors also had a chance to take the lead when Trey Kremer recovered Ashby's fumble of a direct snap at the Colonel 22 with 5:06 left in the first half and the score 13-13. But on fourth and goal from the 5, James Wood swallowed up Rodeffer for no gain after he tried a delayed run up the middle after taking a shotgun snap.

Neither Rodeffer, Cam Sullivan (10 carries, 45 yards) or Gavyn Blye (four carries, 11 yards) could get into a rhythm.

"I had a thought this week based on scrimmage tape that they would put people in the box, and that's exactly what they did," Smith said. "They put everybody in the box, and they played Cover 0, and they dared us to throw the football.

"Early on, they were playing press [coverage] a little bit. We had a little bit of issues getting off press. We had our chances. We had guys beat. We just didn't execute."

Morgan certainly liked James Wood's defensive execution.  

"[Defensive ends] Caleb Keefer and Brendan Cassidy have really stepped it up this year," he said. "In scrimmages, they were just getting after the quarterback a ridiculous amount. They have non-stop effort and they're really hard workers, and they're in really good shape, so they were able to keep coming and coming. Inside, our defensive line and linebackers really stopped things up. Our defensive coaches had a great game plan."

The win over Sherando was nice, but the Colonels want to be consistent, and know they can play better. James Wood is off next week, and its hopes to be more like the team it thinks it can be against Skyline in two weeks.

"We're not even close to where we're supposed to be at," Ashby said. "We're probably 50 percent [of our potential] right now. Once we get to to 100, I think we're going to be a really, really good team."


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