Colonels roll past Rams

By Brad Fauber

STRASBURG — Strasburg didn’t have any answers for James Wood’s offense on Friday night.

The Colonels rolled up 499 yards of offense and scored touchdowns on its first six possessions of the game, and James Wood rolled to a 40-20 win over the Rams for its second consecutive victory.

“We couldn’t tackle. … I think essentially we just went where they wanted us to go and we just took the path of least resistance. We just wanted to make it easy,” Rams coach Mark Roller said. “They just ran it the right way. They executed well tonight. We just didn’t make plays on defense. I guess that’s what the weight room does for you. I think that was pretty evident tonight.”

James Wood quarterback Brady Hepner did most of the damage for the Colonels’ offense, as he accounted for five of his team’s six touchdowns. The senior completed 11 of 13 passes for 246 yards and three touchdowns while also rushing for 92 yards and two scores.

For good measure, Hepner also snagged an interception — his first of the season — on defense in the fourth quarter before exiting with the game well in hand.

“Wasn’t that Brady something? He was right on the money,” Colonels coach Mark McHale said.

Hepner and James Wood’s offense went to work quickly against Strasburg’s defense, as the Colonels marched 60 yards on the game’s opening drive before Hepner found running back Tyler Bishop for an 11-yard touchdown pass with 5:57 left in the first quarter. A successful 2-point conversion gave the Colonels (2-2) an 8-0 lead.

“I think we had a lot of confidence coming in from last week with our first home victory,” said Hepner. “We came in here and we made the first play. We kind of had the first blow and it built our confidence up and nothing really brought it down.”

James Wood finished the game with 17 plays of 10 yards or more, including eight plays for 20-plus yards. Only two of Hepner’s 11 completions went for fewer than 10 yards.

Strasburg (1-2) looked like it would answer on its first possession of the game, as the Rams drove from their own 31 to the Colonels’ 38 on five plays. A false-start penalty then backed the Rams up on first down, and Strasburg eventually failed to convert a fake punt attempt on fourth down that gave the ball back to James Wood at its own 29.

The Colonels needed just two plays to cover the 71 yards to the end zone, as Hepner kept the ball on a read-option and scampered 46 yards for a touchdown.

James Wood’s third drive of the game began at the Colonels’ 2 following a good punt by Strasburg’s Justin Carr, but Hepner found wide receiver Nick Manuel for 37 yards on first down to move the Colonels to their own 39. James Wood was back in the end zone three plays later when Hepner connected with Bishop again for a 45-yard touchdown pass to complete the five-play, 98-yard drive.

Bishop finished with four catches for 94 yards and two touchdowns and added another 49 yards rushing on seven carries. Manuel, who also notched one of James Wood’s two interceptions on defense, had five catches for 131 yards and a touchdown.

“Coach always says our wide receivers are talented, and they are,” Hepner said. “He said ‘you get it out to them and just get them in space and they’ll do their thing.’ I did, and I did last week, too. And it showed. It showed real well.”

James Wood scored on an 81-yard drive with 24 seconds left in the first half, as Landon Rutherford ran it in from 10 yards out to send the Colonels into halftime with a 28-0 lead.

Strasburg had only three possessions in the first half and drove into James Wood territory all three times, but failed to come away with any points.

“We had our opportunities,” Roller said of a Rams offense that had just 104 yards of offense at halftime. “We tried to run before we caught the ball several times tonight. We ran the wrong routes. We didn’t execute the way we needed to execute and the bottom line is when you’re playing a team that’s better than you and you don’t do that, then you can’t win.”

Strasburg opened the second half with a scoring drive, as the Rams covered 63 yards on six plays. Rams quarterback Mark Smoot hit a wide-open Carr in the end zone for a 17-yard touchdown pass that cut James Wood’s lead to 28-6.

Any momentum the Rams received from that drive were short lived, however. Strasburg botched a squib kick and gave James Wood the ball at the Colonels’ 46, and Hepner’s 53-yard pass to Manuel put James Wood back in the end zone just three plays later.

The Rams answered with a 68-yard touchdown drive on their next possession, as Smoot found his twin brother, Ryan, for a 9-yard scoring pass.

James Wood came right back with a 68-yard touchdown drive before the Rams capped the scoring with Colton Funk’s 16-yard touchdown run with 4:48 left to play.

Strasburg finished with 308 yards of offense, including 204 yards in the second half.

Mark Smoot completed 19 of 28 passes for 232 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Trevin Howard caught eight passes for 116 yards for the Rams, while Funk finished with 79 rushing yards on 16 carries.

“We adjusted a little bit and tried to run some different things, but I think when you’ve got a 28-0 lead at halftime kids kind of come out a little relaxed … where they’re not as disciplined, and that’s probably what happened to [James Wood’s defense],” Roller said. “But of all things, I think Colton ran the ball hard. Mark threw it well, but there were some mistakes there. We’ve just got to get better offensively — and defensively. You can’t give up 40 points a game and expect to win.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or bfauber@nvdaily.com