Jefferson shuts down Colonels

SHENANDOAH JUNCTION, W.Va. — With starting left tackle Michael Cummins not dressed to play, the James Wood football team’s offense didn’t start the game with its typical lineup, but its first drive featured its typical production — a 51-yard march over 10 plays to the Jefferson 3-yard line.

But then Wes Brondos was dropped for a two-yard loss on second down. Ryan King couldn’t bring in a pass in the back of the end zone from Jared Neal on third down. Then Hunter Barnhart’s 22-yard field goal attempt was blocked on fourth down.

It would be three more quarters before James Wood had a possession as productive as that one. And by then, it was too late.

After a scoreless first quarter, Jefferson scored 26 unanswered points in the second and third quarters and went on to a 33-14 win to complete a Frederick County sweep at Jefferson Stadium. The Cougars — who are 7-0 for the first time since 2005 — defeated Millbrook 55-23 in Week 1 and Sherando 41-14 in Week 2.

Beginning with the 9:47 mark of the second quarter, Jefferson had six consecutive possessions start in James Wood territory. When that stretch was over, the Cougars were up 26-0 with 1:31 left in the third quarter.

The Cougars recorded three interceptions, forced a punt and a turnover on downs, and recorded a safety on a bad punt snap over those 20 minutes and 16 seconds to keep the ball in Colonel territory. The run ended when Spencer Powell recorded Jefferson’s fourth interception of the night on a deep fourth-down pass over the middle from Neal that essentially amounted to a punt with 10:11 left in the fourth quarter.

James Wood — which shifted its other starting offensive linemen around to different spots — was without starting offensive guard Ethan Pingley in the second half because of an injury. Caleb Keefer (second on the team in tackles with 52, first in sacks with 5.5) also played offensive guard on Friday, but he was removed because of an injury as well.

The Colonels — who were outgained 280-227 — weren’t going to have an easy time even if they were at full strength.

On the defensive front, Jefferson varied the number of total people on the line, and varied the number of players who were down and standing on their defensive front.

The Cougars stuffed Brondos repeatedly — he finished with 58 yards on 19 carries but had only 11 yards on 10 carries in the first half.

“They were just coming so hard on some of our run plays, that we didn’t have a whole lot of room to run,” James Wood coach Ryan Morgan said. “That left us kind of throwing the ball.”

Jefferson forced Neal into a lot of tough throws.

Neal (13 of 28 for 171 yards and one TD) throws well on the run, but he never looked comfortable because of Jefferson’s pursuit. In addition to the four interceptions, Jefferson produced two sacks, one of which forced a fumble that the Colonels recovered.

“They did a really good job applying pressure,” Morgan said. “We kind of had to reshuffle our offensive line this week, and so some of the guys were kind of new in some positions. They picked a good week to throw a lot of different fronts at us.

“But we’ve got to do a better job of protecting, and getting rid of the ball, and getting the ball to the right places. But they’ve got athletes all over the place. We have pretty good athletes, but they do a pretty good job of covering on the back end. There aren’t people flying wide open [for James Wood] like there have been earlier in the year.”

Jefferson scored its first touchdown after Nolan Meehleib returned a short Neal pass over the middle 21 yards to the James Wood 34. That set up a a nine-yard TD pass from Sammy Roberts (15 of 23 for 214 yards, three touchdowns, one interception) to Powell.

Roberts rolled to the right and Powell crossed with him, and Jaden Ashby (five catches, 87 yards; 27 yards rushing, one TD) just missed getting a hand on the ball before it reached Powell. The extra point from Oren Humphreys made it 7-0 with 4:34 left in the first quarter.

The right-handed Neal was then picked off on a throw six yards past the line of scrimmage while rolling to his left four plays later by Lee Forshee at the Jefferson 37, but James Wood held Jefferson to a 27-yard Humphreys field goal on the final play of the half to make it 10-0.

Held to just nine yards in the last 15:41 of the first half, James Wood had some success on the opening possession of the second half, with a 13-yard Brondos run giving it a first down at the Jefferson 46.

Three plays later, the Colonels — who had already converted a fourth-and-1 from their own 29 on the drive — went for it on fourth-and-7. But Neal threw a deep pass toward the right as Ashby made a cut toward the left inside a defender, and the ball fell incomplete.

“[Ashby] saw the open space, and I was getting rushed,” Neal said. “I was not myself tonight. I was getting rushed and under pressure, and I made a bad throw.”

That was James Wood’s last chance to make it a one-possession game. Three plays later, Roberts connected with Isaiah Fritts (five catches, 86 yards) for a 32-yard TD pass to make it 17-0 with 6:48 left in the third quarter.

A bad punt snap into the end zone three possessions later that produced a safety made it 19-0, and Jefferson returned the ensuing kick to the James Wood 42. That led to a two-yard TD run by Bryson Fleming on a Wildcat play with 1:31 left in the third quarter to make it 26-0.

A one-yard TD run by Ashby made it 26-6 with 4:13 left and a 25-yard TD pass and two-point conversion pass with 1:13 left — both from Neal to Andrew Link — closed out the scoring.

Morgan thought his team played well on defense. Brandon Waters and Brendan Cassidy had sacks and Ryan King had an interception for a Colonels team that held Jefferson to 66 rushing yards on 27 attempts.

The field position was just hard to overcome.

“We gave them such short fields on offense, Jefferson was able to put up some points,” Morgan said. “For the most part, we were able to avoid a ton of big plays, though there were a couple. In the second half, we weren’t able to sustain drives and put up the points that we needed.”

James Wood starts a four-game stretch against the Class 4 Northwestern District when it hosts Liberty next Friday.

“I told the kids after the game this is not a conference game,” Morgan said. “It’s a good measuring stick against a good team. [Jefferson] was the better team tonight, but it doesn’t affect our hopes in the district or our hopes in the playoffs. Next week, we have to fix things and go back in the right direction. Hopefully, we can make a playoff push.”

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