James Wood looks to extend Fauquier skid

Two games with local rivals Millbrook and Handley are on tap to close the season, but before that the James Wood football team needs to take care of business in another home game against a team searching for success.

A week ago, James Wood scored 42 points in the first half of a 42-24 win against winless Liberty. Tonight at 7 p.m. at Kelican Stadium, the Colonels (5-2, 2-1 Class 4 Northwestern District) host Fauquier (2-5, 1-2), which is coming off 41-0 losses to Kettle Run two weeks ago and Glen Allen last week.

The Falcons aren’t a pushover, though. They trailed only 14-7 at the half in a 28-14 loss to Handley earlier this season, and three weeks ago Fauquier beat Millbrook 21-6.

“I think they’re well-coached, especially on defense,” said James Wood coach Ryan Morgan, whose team edged the Falcons 21-18 in their last matchup in 2019. “They always fly around on defense. They’ve done a pretty good job of holding some explosive offenses down. They’ve always played us tough defensively, even when we’ve had some explosive players.

“They do a good job of tackling well. They’re physical. They might not be the biggest team, but they like to hit and they play intensely.”

James Wood’s offense is led by Jaden Ashby (913 rushing and receiving yards, 15 touchdowns), quarterback Jared Neal (79 of 144 for 1,212 yards passing, 15 TDs, eight interceptions) and running back Wes Brondos (127 carries for 749 yards, four TDs).

The Colonels had a few big gains called back by penalties last week and had 15 penalties for 127 yards overall. James Wood is looking to do better in that department this week.

“We had little things like letting our hands get outside of our frame [blocking] and not being disciplined with some of the things we were doing, like lining up offsides,” Morgan said.

Against Millbrook, Fauquier’s Dylan Taylor rushed 43 times for 229 yards and a touchdown.

“We went down to scout Brentsville and Fauquier several weeks ago,” Morgan said. “He got banged up a little bit with an ankle issue, and when he came back in the game, even though he was limping around, Fauquier was still trying to get him the ball. He made some plays probably even at 60 percent speed.

“He’s a good passing target, too. They ran him out of the backfield into some trips or quads formations, and ran some wheel routes with him.”

Morgan said Fauquier will try to control the clock with two or three backs in the backfield. When they do go to the air, the Falcons feature a freshman quarterback in Ben Noland.

“With a young quarterback, you’d like to show some different looks. You want to play physical and get after the quarterback,” said Morgan, whose team has 17 sacks (6.5 by Caleb Keefer). “He’s got some good skills, but hopefully, we can take advantage of some of his inexperience. He’s not the tallest quarterback around, so if we can keep him in the pocket, it might be difficult for him to see over the line and make accurate throws and good reads.”

James Wood turned to Brondos as a punter last week, and Morgan said he will likely stay in that role. With a 36-yard average over five punts, Brondos has made an impression. He had one that went for 46 yards.

“He even got off a decent punt off when a snap was a little bit high and kind of went over his head,” Morgan said. “He has a little bit of a rugby background. He’s even asked me to let him drop kick it. We’ll see what he can do this week.”

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