WINCHESTER — After fumbling the ball at its own 31-yard line in the first quarter of a scoreless game against Sherando last week, the James Wood football team fumbled the ball at its own 15 in the first quarter of a scoreless game against Skyline on Friday night at Jerry L. Kelican Stadium.
The introduction this week might have been the same, but James Wood did one heck of a job preventing Friday’s game from turning into a repeat.
Sherando converted that fumble into the first touchdown of a 34-0 victory, but James Wood forced the Hawks to turn the ball over on downs at the 11 after that fumble.
James Wood then mounted an 89-yard touchdown drive, and the Colonels went on to a 26-0 win over the Hawks to snap their four-game losing streak.
"If [Skyline] scores there and takes the lead, it’s a whole different ballgame," James Wood senior linebacker and tight end Noah Sullivan said. "I’m glad we were able to get the stop there and change the momentum a little bit."
Sullivan — who was named James Wood’s Homecoming King at halftime — tackled Skyline running back Quentin Diggs for a one-yard loss on fourth-and-5 to give the Colonels (2-5, 1-1 Northwestern District) the ball.
Diggs took an option pitch to the right, and after some excellent penetration by the Colonels’ defensive line Sullivan came up to make the stop.
It was a perfect example of the importance of perseverance that James Wood coach Mark McHale was preaching before the game.
"I gave them a little story about a miner in Utah who put all his money in a mine," McHale said. "He was digging, and digging, and digging, and finally he just gave up. Another guy went in there and bought all this equipment, and he struck twice and hit solid gold.
"I told them, ‘Tonight, we’re going to hit and hit. Let’s hit the gold.’ They played as hard as they could last week. They lost, but they didn’t get down. They didn’t give up. They stayed positive and that showed tonight."
The Colonels never really let go of the momentum that they gained on that fourth-down stop.
Led by Ryan Rupp (22 carries for 88 yards for the game) and Tyler Arnold (12 carries for 98 yards and two TDs after having no rushing attempts all season) James Wood dominated Skyline with its rushing attack to take a 12-0 lead at halftime. James Wood gained 194 of its 258 rushing yards in the first half.
The Hawks (1-6, 0-2) made some adjustments to achieve better success against the run in the second half, but two completions from quarterback Dade Carroll for 37 yards loosened up the defense and led to Arnold’s 28-yard TD run with 6:26 to go. Carroll’s two-point conversion run made it 20-0 to all but seal the win for the Colonels.
And Sullivan’s stop was one of many impressive plays by a James Wood defense that was stout all night. Skyline scored 28 points and had 345 yards last week against Millbrook — the No. 3 team in the 4A West Region — but the Hawks managed only 184 yards and turned the ball over three times against the Colonels.
"Losing to Sherando was depressing, but we did a great job of moving on," said Rupp, who also plays linebacker.
McHale said he thought James Wood would have a chance to run the ball against Skyline based on the way the Colonels were able to move the ball against Sherando at times last week and that turned out to be the case.
"We did a good job up front with the blocks, and all of our running backs did a great job of hitting the hole," said Rupp, who has carried the ball 37 times in the last two weeks after carrying it just 14 times in the first five games.
Arnold — a starting cornerback — came up big after expressing to McHale on Monday that he wanted to contribute to the rushing attack after not having worked out at the position since the preseason. It was Arnold that capped off James Wood’s opening TD drive (10 plays, 89 yards, all runs) with a 16-yard run with one second left in the first quarter to make it 6-0.
The Colonels opened up a 12-0 lead on a 26-yard touchdown pass from running back Chris Lakin to wide receiver Ryan Bearer. Lakin went in motion to the right, took a handoff from Carroll, then hit a leaping Bearer with a strike in the middle of the end zone to make it 12-0 with 7:52 left in the second quarter.
The Hawks had a chance to cut their deficit to one TD after taking over at the Colonel 49 following a punt with 10:55 left in the game. But on third-and-4 at the Wood 27, Skyline quarterback Ryan Scott fumbled. He pulled the ball down when a slant to the left wasn’t open, then lost his balance as he scrambled right and dropped the ball.
Skyline coach Heath Gilbert said he was proud of his team’s effort, and proud that his team was able to keep within striking distance of James Wood until late in the game following the Colonels’ hot start.
He gave a lot of credit to James Wood for what it did on defense. McHale said the Colonels wanted to take away Skyline’s running game, and the Hawks managed only 77 yards on 35 carries.
"It was tough to maintain the run game," Gilbert said. "We had to put a lot on Ryan. [James Wood] did a good job of attacking and moving him out of the pocket."
Also for James Wood, Keegan DeHaven had 62 yards on eight carries, and Carroll was 3 for 3 for 102 yards, including a 65-yard TD pass on a screen to William Crowder that closed the scoring.
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