Football Preview 2017: Morgan looking to get James Wood back on track

James Wood High School coach Matt Morgan leads the Colonels during a recent practice session. Rich Cooley/Daily

WINCHESTER — First-year James Wood head football coach Ryan Morgan inherits a young team, and one he’s hoping can get back to the playoffs.

Morgan, who was an assistant coach at James Wood for eight years, took over in June after Mark McHale stepped down as coach.

One thing Morgan really likes about his team is the depth they have.

“We have more numbers than we had last year,” Morgan said. “We have 46 guys out and we only had, I think, 33 last year. Having more numbers helps in practice. We got some extra bodies to throw in there and if somebody gets dinged up we have somebody to go in there. Last year we had coaches go in there on second team defense, trying to give the offense a look.”

Morgan said he’s also been impressed with how the younger players have stepped up.

“There’s a lot of competition,” Morgan said. “There’s guys who are pushing from 10th grade on up. And there’s some seniors who are battling for some jobs from some young guys. Sometimes seniors on some teams can get complacent. There’s not a whole lot of complacency from the seniors because they’ve seen these young guys coming up. And we’ve got some talented sophomores.”

Morgan said they have three players battling for the quarterback spot. He said senior Mike Zebarth, senior Josh Kesner and sophomore Carson Hoberg are all vying for the position. He said Kesner will also play some at wide receiver, where he played last year.

Sophomore William Crowder is back at running back. Crowder ran for 368 yards last year.

“He’s one of the fastest guys in the area, if not the fastest,” Morgan said. “He did a good job in track last year, and he had some success with the football team.”

Morgan said that seniors Tyler Arnold and Mark Cisler and junior Tylor McBride will also get some carries this season.

Kesner will lead the way at wide receiver, but Morgan said they have a few players coming up from last year’s junior varsity team who will help out at receiver.

Morgan said junior Jackson Clyburn and junior Treyven Mandel should give the team a spark at receiver.

Dominick Revetta leads the way on the offensive line. The two-year starter was a second-team All-Northwestern District selection last year for the Colonels.

Morgan said junior Luke Roy also returns from last year’s offensive line and tight end Jordan Loy will be back at that position. Morgan said the rest of the offensive line positions are up for grabs.

He said that the Colonels have 13 players battling for the offensive line spots.

“We’re trying to find the best starting combination for the starting line,” Morgan said. “But we’re also trying to figure out if one guy goes down what are the adjustments that we make.”

Revetta, Roy and junior Walker See will be expected to lead the way on the defensive line. Revetta led the team with four sacks last year.

Cisler, Arnold and sophomore Jackson Turner will be relied on heavily at linebacker.

Morgan said Kesner and Mandel will be leading the way in the secondary. Morgan said Mandel had six or seven interceptions on the JV team last year, and has looked impressive in preseason.

Jacob Sortino will be handling the kicking duties.

Morgan said it’s been a little bit of an adjustment for him moving from assistant coach to head coach, but he believes it went pretty smooth.

“It’s good that I know the kids already, because I coached almost all of them when they were on JV or earlier in their careers,” Morgan said. “So I didn’t have to learn names, didn’t have to learn what their skills are.”

After a 2-8 season last year, Morgan said he believes the team has had a productive offseason and is ready to bounce back. He said that the goal, like always, is to win the Northwestern District and make the playoffs.

“The kids are working hard out there,” Morgan said. “It seems like they’re energetic and they’re competing. And so we’re just going to take it one week by one week and see what happens.”