James Wood tames Wildcats
By Tommy Keeler Jr.
WINCHESTER — Warren County and James Wood were each searching for its first win of the season on Friday night.
The Wildcats hung tough with the Colonels for a half, but in the second half James Wood pulled away for a 36-0 non-district football victory.
“It feels great,” James Wood quarterback Brady Hepner said. “The last time we played on this field we won [last season against Millbrook]. It’s our goal to win all our home games this year, and maybe make it to the playoffs — set a high goal.”
The Wildcats looked solid on their first drive of the game. Warren County moved the ball 33 yards on seven plays to the James Wood 44. After a five-yard penalty moved the ball back to the James Wood 49, Warren County quarterback Cameron Ford’s pass was intercepted by Nick Manuel and returned to the Warren County 37.
“We were able to get some first downs,” Warren County coach Steve Crist said. “We were able to move the ball, gain field position, control the clock but we didn’t get points on the board, which was what we really needed out of that first drive.”
“It was really big,” Manuel said of the interception. “It got the momentum started on our side. It gave us a short field to score, and made us get some points on the board. So that was big for us.”
James Wood capitalized with a nine-play drive, capped off with a 4-yard touchdown run by Tyler Bishop with 3:40 left in the first quarter and an 8-0 lead.
Neither team was able to finish off any drives over the next 12 minutes. Just before the end of the half, the Colonels added to their lead.
Facing a third-and-6 from the James Wood 25, Hepner connected with Manuel on a pass at the James Wood 40, Manuel then broke a couple tackles and raced down the sidelines for a 75-yard touchdown with 1:26 left in the first half.
“It was a simple hitch route, and I got it out there in time and he made a play,” Hepner said. “Coach always says make simple throws, and make your receivers make plays and he made a play. It was huge.”
The second half was all James Wood. The Colonels used a 12 play, 47-yard drive to chew up most of the clock in the third quarter. James Wood ran the ball on all nine plays, and Landon Rutherford scored a 1-yard touchdown to give the Colonels a 24-0 lead with 1:50 left in the third quarter.
“We ran the ball good,” James Wood coach Mark McHale said. “That’s what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to be able to run the ball.”
Entering their final drive of the game, the Wildcats were held to 0 first downs and only 11 yards of offense in the second half.
Crist said he wasn’t sure what the difference was in the two halves, but he was proud of the way his team came out to start the game especially compared to the first two games of the season.
“We came out from the get-go much more ready to play on both sides of the ball and executed well, minus a play or two, here or there,” Crist said.
The Wildcats (0-3) finished with 56 yards rushing and 48 yards passing. James Wood had 131 yards on the ground and 183 through the air.
Crist said the team just needs to string some more positive plays together and gain some confidence.
“We definitely need some confidence at this point in the season,” Crist said. “We struggled to move the ball and put points on the board, offensively, so some of it’s a lack of confidence.”
The Colonels (1-2) are now brimming with confidence after a solid victory early in the season.
“I’m just so happy for these players,” McHale said. “They deserve to win. They’ve been working hard.”
Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or firstname.lastname@example.org Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd