Wood takes on Brentsville in home opener

WINCHESTER — Following last week’s 220-mile trip to Pulaski County, the only local high school yet to play a home game this season is very much looking forward to playing at Kelican Stadium tonight.

The Colonels (2-0) will try to keep their undefeated season going against Brentsville (2-1) at 7 p.m. in just their second home game since 2019. James Wood only played one game at Kelican Stadium in the spring.

“I think some of the kids are excited to play in front of more family members,” James Wood coach Ryan Morgan said. “We didn’t have very many people make it down to Pulaski last week. Getting family and friends here to see the kids play I think is big for them.

“And playing on your home field when you don’t have to travel four hours, and you can kind of relax a little bit more and not have to hurry through pregame will hopefully be a little bit comforting to those guys and kind of get them into a groove a little bit quicker. We’ve had kind of slow starts the first two weeks, so hopefully, we can get off to a quick start.”

Brentsville is taking on its fourth Class 4 Northwestern District foe of the season, having defeated Liberty (39-13) and Fauquier (23-8) before falling to Kettle Run 35-14 last week. The Tigers led 14-7 at the half against the Cougars.

Tonight’s game will be emotional for Brentsville. According to social media posts, Brentsville three-sport athlete and football player Ryland Harris passed away this week after a lengthy battle with brain cancer.

The Tigers are led by quarterback Caleb Alexander, who has thrown five touchdown passes and run for two scores.

“Their quarterback is pretty dangerous,” Morgan said. “He likes to run, they like to run him on some power reads, quarterback keeps and some option stuff. He’s someone we have to do a good job of containing.”

Morgan said the Tigers hand the ball off a lot out of power formations to 5-foot-11, 200-pound running Bryce Jackson (three rushing touchdowns from inside the 3-yard line).

“The biggest thing for him is he likes to get vertical,” Morgan said. “He’s not the fastest guy in open space. He likes to stay inside and run between the tackles for the most part.”

One of Alexander’s main targets is 6-foot-3 Luca Orlando, who had three TD grabs in Brentsville’s first two games.

“He can run a little bit,” Morgan said. “He seems to be pretty reliable with his hands.

“They don’t have a lot of players on the edge who can take the top off the defense, but they do a good job of blocking for them on bubble screens. They run bubbles screens to their inside receivers, then they run kind of some tunnel screens to their outside receivers, where the outside guy just steps back a step and the inside receivers go block the corner. They do a good job of getting it to whoever they think is open.”

Morgan said Brentsville will challenge the Colonels at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.

“They’re physical up front,” Morgan said. “They do a good job with their offensive line and defensive line getting off the ball.”

The Colonels’ defensive front is led by end Caleb Keefer, who has 22 tackles (eight for loss) and four sacks. He’s had four tackles for loss and two sacks in each game. In the secondary, Ryan King is coming off a 20-tackle, two-interception game against Pulaski County.

James Wood has scored 34 points in each of its two wins and is averaging an area-best 440.5 yards per game with the help of an offensive line featuring left tackle Michael Cummins, left guard Ethan Pingley, center Ronan Soloskey, right guard Jack Thompson and right tackle Hunter Franks.

They’ll look to spring an offense that features Jaden Ashby (259 rushing and receiving yards, six touchdowns), running back Wes Brondos (47 carries, 389 yards, two TDs) and quarterback Jared Neal (19 of 34, 366 yards, four TDs).

Morgan said Brentsville mostly runs a 4-3 defense and features Cover 4 and Cover 2 looks, and the Tigers will blitz two linebackers regularly.

“When they’re going to send six [players], identifying who the offensive line has is going to be key,” Morgan said. “We definitely don’t want to allow free runners up the ‘A’ gap (between the center and guards) especially.

“And I think blocking on the edge and blocking after the catch is going to be important, because Brentsville does a good job of keeping things in front of them with their defense. It’s hard to beat them deep, so after our receivers catch the ball, people have to get downfield and block.”

Note: This week was supposed to be James Wood’s Hall of Fame game, but the Colonels decided not to do any inductions this year.

— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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