James Wood’s coach Ryan Morgan has been very honest with his football team as training began this week.
After falling to Sherando (54-8) and Skyline (21-20) in the first two weeks, the Colonels enter Friday’s 7 p.m. showdown in Brentsville looking for a first victory.
“What I told the kids this week is that they’re going to win when they deserve it,” Morgan said. “We made too many mistakes. Sherando is a good football team so in Week 1 we obviously weren’t ready to go out and beat them.
“Skyline, we made too many mistakes and our kids didn’t deserve to win the baseball game. We didn’t finish in tackles and we didn’t finish offensively. We didn’t play well in special teams. We made too many mistakes there.
Morgan said a bye last week allowed several of his players to heal. It also allowed him to focus on a few key things he thought the Skyline game revealed.
Thanks in large part to quarterback sacks, the Colonels finished with negative rushing yards in this contest. Hawks quarterback Aidan Vaught was able to evade multiple tackles on a game-winning drive.
“Our last game we had issues with protection up front, so we worked on pass protection, acknowledging blitzes and that sort of thing,” Morgan said. “Defensively, we focused on tackles and legs. There were too many times we tried to tackle high against Skyline and we missed a lot of those tackles.
The Colonels certainly get another test against Class 3 Brentsville (2-1), which opened the season against three other Class 4 teams in the Northwest District. The Tigers beat Liberty (40-28) and Fauquier (41-13) to open the season before losing 38-7 to defending Northwest District Class 4 champion Kettle Run last week.
Brentsville features an offense spearheaded by dual-threat quarterback Caleb Alexander. In the win over Fauquier, Alexander rushed 14 times for 91 yards and two touchdowns, while completing 9 of 21 passes for 201 yards and two scores. Against Liberty, Alexander rushed 19 times for 172 yards and two touchdowns and he had a 54-yard TD rush against Kettle Run.
“Their quarterback runs really well,” Morgan said. “We went to watch them last week and their quarterback probably took off 55 yards down the middle on a power reading and nobody from Kettle Run could catch him. It is dangerous if he descends and his head is full of steam. He’s faster than most, if not all, of the kids we have.
Orlando is more of a blue-collar rusher, but he rushed 27 times for 179 yards and three touchdowns against Liberty and 13 times for 64 yards and a score against Fauquier.
“He gets north and south,” Morgan said of Orlando. “He doesn’t spend too much time dancing and he gets behind his blockers. If they can create seams for him, he can interrupt a few stretches.
And the blocker for those guys is the reigning Class 3 Northwest District and Region 3B Offensive Player of the Year, Tyler Nix. The 6-foot-3, 285-pound player plays on both the offensive and defensive lines.
The Colonels have moved the ball mostly through the air this season. Quarterback Jared Neal completed 34 of 64 passes for 403 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions. Neal’s favorite target is Eli Miller (14 catches, 195 yards, 1 TD).
On defense, the Colonels are led by linebacker Zach Smith, who averages 13.5 tackles per game.
The Colonels, who toppled Brentsville 37-15 last season, will face a tough challenge this time around.
“We have to protect up front,” Morgan said. “That’s probably one of the big things. The tackle is going to be huge. We have to get on people’s legs, avoid high tackles and take good angles. No. 8 their quarterback, he’s quick enough to do damage around the edges. We have to make sure that we keep things in front of us.
“And then it’s about making sure that we take care of the football and that we don’t turn the ball over. And we have to lock in certain things on the special teams. In each phase of the special teams, we commit too many errors.
If the colonels can do that, maybe they’ll get that first victory.
“At the end of the day, every team will be different from year to year,” Morgan said. “Right now, we are in a process where we are building and bringing to life the children’s experience. Hopefully we win on Friday night, but we have to keep playing better.