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By Tommy Keeler Jr. - email@example.com
WINCHESTER -- Christian Bean knew he had to make a play.
With the game on the line in the final seconds, the James Wood senior did just that. Bean came after Heritage quarterback Austin Nelson on a blitz and sacked him to help preserve James Wood's 24-21 non-district victory in the season opener for both teams.
"Our backs were against the wall," Bean said. "Everybody was looking at everybody. I just knew we had to step up."
The Pride had a first-and-goal at the 1-yard line with less than a minute remaining. The Colonels stopped them for no gain on consecutive runs by Nelson and Juan Narvaez.
Heritage coach Steve Williams elected to call the Pride's last timeout with 33 seconds left and the Pride facing third-and-goal from the 1. James Wood anticipated a passing play, and came with a blitz from Bean and it paid off. Bean sacked Nelson at the 10-yard line and forced Heritage's Kevin Pyszka into a hurried 27-yard field goal attempt, which sailed wide left.
"I'll take the blame on that one as the offensive line coach," Williams said. "They brought pressure up the middle. The play we were trying to run was with one-on-one coverage, and it never had time to develop. Austin never had a chance to make a play."
It was only fitting that the Colonels' defense made the critical play. James Wood's defense came up with the big stops when it had to all game long.
Heritage's Marcus Finney returned the opening kickoff 68 yards to the James Wood 18. Two plays later, James Wood's Bradley Skillman intercepted Nelson's pass in the end zone.
In the final minutes of the first half, with the Colonels leading 10-7, Nelson appeared to have a touchdown run. However, he was hit just before crossing the goal line and fumbled the ball into the end zone with James Wood's T.J. Bruce recovering.
"If we could've got those two scores, it could've been a different ballgame," Williams said.
James Wood led 17-7 late in the third quarter, but Heritage responded. Nelson connected with Ryan Taylor on a 5-yard touchdown pass with 8:03 left in the game. After a successful onside kick by Heritage, Nelson gave the Pride their first lead of the game with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Finney with 6:52 left.
The Colonels responded with their solid rushing attack. James Wood used eight plays to go 79 yards. All eight plays were runs, Clark capped off the drive with a 31-yard touchdown with 3:40 left.
Clark, who ran for 131 yards on 22 carries, cut to the outside where he had an open field. However, Clark said things almost went bad for him.
"I almost tripped up," Clark said. "I was just thinking, 'Don't fall down'. I was able to keep my feet up. Getting into the end zone was my main priority and it paid off."
Nelson was 20-for-26 passing for 248 yards, and he also ran 15 times for 95 yards. Finney had 78 yards on six receptions, and Drew Burkhard had four catches for 58 yards.
The Colonels had 48 carries as a team for 253 yards rushing. James Wood has a big, solid offensive line which helped pave the way for the ground game.
"I really have to give the credit to the offensive line," Clark said. "They made the holes. They did a great job.
"Getting the win is the best feeling in the world."