By Ben Brooks
WINCHESTER -- James Wood coach Mike Bolin says senior Mark Collie has done everything possible to get on the field this season. After Friday night's performance, the hard part might be keeping him off it.
The backup tailback rushed for a game-high 106 yards -- all but four coming in the second half -- and scored two touchdowns to help lead the Colonels to a 21-10 Northwestern District victory over Skyline on homecoming night at Kelican Stadium.
With James Wood (4-3, 1-1) nursing a precarious 7-3 lead early in the third quarter, Bolin called on Collie to replace starter Joel McGreevy. Bolin intended for it to be a temporary substitution. It was anything but. Collie immediately squirted through the middle of the line on his way to a 34-yard gain down to Skyline's 31-yard line. The 5-foot-11, 169-pounder later capped James Wood's 13-play, 65-yard scoring drive with a 2-yard touchdown run that put the Colonels ahead 14-3.
"I know Mark is a good running back and wants the ball more, but sometimes as coaches we're stubborn and get set in our ways," said Bolin, whose offensive unit got its first 100-yard rusher of the season. "The play before Joel didn't hit the hole the way I wanted him to, so I took him out to talk to him about it. You've just got to play the hot hand. Mark stepped up big."
Collie, who makes up for his lack of size with decisive and quick bursts through the line of scrimmage, said he wasn't expecting to get the call. However, he was more than happy for the opportunity to contribute.
"I've been working hard to play running back," said Collie, who sees spot duty at several defensive positions and even leads the Colonels with two sacks. "Tonight, I got my chance. It felt great. My line made excellent blocks. I feel like if I hit the line hard and keep driving my feet I'll be able to keep going."
While Collie had to muscle his way into the end zone for his first score, his second was much more of the open-field variety. Midway through the fourth quarter, with the Colonels looking to put the game away, Collie delivered the knockout blow with a 47-yard scoring run that gave James Wood a commanding 21-3 lead.
Sparked by the play of backup quarterback Aaron Jeremiah, the Hawks (2-5, 0-2) showed some offensive life late. Jeremiah, who replaced injured starter Derek Helsley midway through the second half, capped a 10-play, 62-yard scoring drive with a 1-yard run to cut the deficit to 21-10 with 3:52 remaining. However, the Hawks didn't recover the on-side kick and never threatened again. Jeremiah finished the game 6-of-12 for 96 yards.
"We knew at the beginning of the year that we had two decent quarterbacks," Skyline coach Heath Gilbert said. "We felt good with Aaron in there."
Mistakes that have cost the Hawks dearly through much of the season again haunted them early Friday. Skyline was called for three holding penalties on the game's opening possession, including one that negated what would have been a Helsley 40-yard touchdown run. With the exception of a late drive just before halftime that produced Helsley's 25-yard field goal as time expired, Skyline didn't have much more success offensively until the game's closing minutes. A dropped pass that could have resulted in a score or at least given the Hawks the ball deep in James Wood territory early in the fourth quarter was another missed opportunity.
"We've struggled all year with penalties and not making big plays when we need to," Gilbert said. "If we don't get a penalty on that first drive, I think that makes it more exciting at the end."
All the scoring in the first half came in the final 1:30 of the second quarter. The Colonels took the lead when quarterback Matt Copley found Chad Potter for a 25-yard scoring strike on a third-and-11. Potter found a hole between a pair of Skyline defenders and made a nice adjustment on the ball for his second scoring reception of the season.
Asked if he thought his performance might have earned him a few carries in next week's showdown against Frederick County rival Millbrook, Collie said, "I sure hope so."
Bolin was a bit more decisive.
"We've got three games left, and I think he'll play a big part in all three," he said.