James Wood routs Millbrook to clinch first playoff berth since 2014

WINCHESTER — Walter Barr would have found a lot to like about the performance from the James Wood football team on Friday night.

On the day that the legendary football coach died at the age of 85, James Wood — the school that Barr led to the Group AAA state title in 1970 and restored to prominence when he returned 35 years later — outscored Frederick County rival Millbrook 49-0 in the first half en route to a 56-7 Class 4 Northwestern District victory at Millbrook High School.

The Colonels outgained Millbrook 447-193, including 326-54 in the first half. Senior wide receiver Jaden Ashby (142 yards from scrimmage) scored three touchdowns in the first half, including a 16-yard touchdown reception to open the scoring and a 46-yard TD run. Ryan King scored two, including a 72-yard punt return TD that along with Hunter Barhart's extra point (he made 6 of 7 attempts for the game) closed the first-half scoring.

The win gives James Wood (7-2 overall, 4-1 in the district) its most victories since 2009 and officially puts them in the playoffs for the first time since 2014. It also gave them back-to-back wins over Millbrook (1-8, 1-5), something James Wood hadn't done since 2013-14.

"It feels great," Ashby said. "It always feels good to beat a rival team that put it on us back then. But now it's changed around and we put it on them."

For 24 years, most teams were putting it on the Colonels. James Wood only won as many as four games twice and had four winless seasons while enduring 24 straight losing seasons from 1982 to 2005. The 2005 campaign marked Barr's first year back as James Wood's coach since he led the Colonels to a 38-2-1 record from 1967-70. After going 1-9 in 2005, Barr led James Wood to a 7-3 mark in 2006 and a playoff berth in 2007 in an 8-3 season.

James Wood fifth-year head coach Ryan Morgan moved to Virginia from Michigan in 2007, Barr's last year. Morgan didn't get to work on Barr's staff that year (he joined the Colonels' football program in 2008), but Morgan said Barr occasionally came back to football practices over the years and talked to him and the coaches that Barr worked with.

Morgan said he spent five or 10 minutes this afternoon talking about Barr's importance to the school that named its stadium field "Walter Barr Field at Jerry Kelican Stadium" in 2019. Counting the spring, the Colonels have posted a perfect 5-0 mark on that field this year.

"We've had our ups and downs [since 2007], but it's been a better program than the 25 years before he came back," said Morgan, whose team is enjoying its third straight winning season. "Our program is where we are today largely because of him. He built the program, and we're just kind of standing on the shoulders of giants. It was a great tonight to come out here, get a victory and celebrate him."

Millbrook held a moment of silence for Barr before the game.

Once the game — which did not have any of the forecasted rain that many people seemed to be dreading — kicked off, James Wood went right to work.

Ashby's opening TD reception from Jared Neal (11 of 18 for 85 yards) came 1:11 into the game after plays of 30, 8 and 11 yards. A two-point pass from Neal to King made it 8-0.

The Pioneers then gave the ball to wide receiver CJ Standen on a jet sweep and had him throw the ball after taking over at their own 35. James Wood Wood cornerback Chris Morrison leapt in front of a Millbrook receiver at the James Wood 30 to intercept the pass, which might have traveled farther downfield if not for pressure from Ronan Solosky.

Wes Brondos (18 carries, 136 yards) capped the ensuing eight-play drive with two-yard TD run to make it 14-0, and James Wood's defense then forced a three-and-out with 6:33 left on the clock.

It was a very similar start to last week's game, when James Wood scored touchdowns on its first two possessions but didn't score another offensive touchdown the rest of the game in a 23-0 win. But on Friday against Millbrook, James Wood never let up, scoring TDs on all six of its first-half possessions.

"We know we've got to come out fast, put the foot on the pedal, keep on driving, score fast and put a team away early if we can," Ashby said. "That's what we did tonight."

Ashby's three touchdowns on Friday gave him a school-record 39 for his career as well as school-record 234 points for his career. His 23 touchdowns and 138 points this season are single-season school records.

The Colonels (47 carries for 362 yards) often picked up big chunks of yardage both inside and outside with the help of strong blocking from the offensive line of left tackle Michael Cummins, left guard Ethan Pingley, Solosky at center, right guard Jack Thompson and right tackle Hunter Franks.

"I think that was one of their better games getting off the ball, being aggressive," Morgan said. "We didn't have as many false steps or as many missed blocks."   

"The offensive line was great blocking today," Ashby said. "There were huge holes."

It was also another stellar effort from James Wood's defense, which held Fauquier to 39 yards last week and nearly recorded its second straight shutout. Detric Brown (5 of 12 for 96 yards) connected with Standen (three catches for 103 yards) for a 33-yard pass and a 47-yard TD pass with 1:40 left on the Pioneers' final drive.

The Colonels had four takeaways, including one where Karim Cisse hit Brown from behind for a sack and fumble that 6-foot-5, 290-pound freshman Kquince Robinson returned 16 yards to the Millbrook 1. That led to Ashby's last touchdown to make it 42-0 with 2:13 left in the first half.

"I like how we stopped the run up the middle," said senior defensive end Brendan Cassidy, who contributed to Wood's three sacks. "Our coverages were better than most weeks. We improved from last week."

"Just the intensity and the aggression, that might have been the hardest-hitting game we've had so far this year," said Morgan, who also liked how his team adjusted to the I formation that Millbrook went to on its third possession.  

Though the Pioneers didn't get to celebrate a win like it did last week, coach Josh Haymore thought his players got better in their final home game of the season.

"Our kids played together," said Haymore, whose team closes out the year at Eastern View next week. "I feel like some of the young kids that started out in the game and got to play throughout the game played really hard, and they played hard for the guys who are graduating tonight."

Ashby said the Colonels are going to be playing for Barr the rest of the year, and next Friday they'll have a chance to make a trophy named in part after him a fixture at their school for at least one year when they host Handley.

The Barr-Lindon Crimson Apple is awarded by The Winchester Star to the team that fares best in Winchester-Frederick County games. Of the four schools that have competed for the award since 2003, James Wood is the only one which has never won it. The Colonels can also clinch their first home playoff game since 1980 with a win.

"It's going to be an awesome game," Ashby said. "I think it's going to be one of the biggest games of the year. I think we're going to be ready to come compete and get that Apple Cup."

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