Colonels halt skid, beat Millbrook 13-6
WINCHESTER — After transferring in from a high school in Georgia, James Wood senior lineman Christian Marchelewski probably didn’t know what he was getting into when he came out for the Colonels’ football team this year.
After Friday night, he more than gets it.
“He told me, coach I came from a winning program in Georgia,” Colonels first-year head coach Mark McHale said. “But I’ve never had a win that felt this good.”
Yep, James Wood sure is going to enjoy its bye week.
The Colonels defeated Northwestern District and Frederick County rival Millbrook 13-6 Friday at Jerry L. Kelican Stadium to snap a 17-game losing streak that started after they won their 2012 season opener.
It was a streak that saw James Wood (1-8, 1-2 Northwestern) get outscored 600-191 (an average of 35-11), so it was no surprise at all to see players hollering and jumping into each other and the Colonels’ public address announcer adding “the nightmare is over” as he gave the final score after James Wood quarterback Brady Hepner took a knee to end the game.
After gathering his players together in a huddle, McHale praised the team because they “never gave up.”
In addition to losing the 17 straight games, James Wood’s senior class had lost key personnel to season-ending injuries this year, including its starting quarterback, two starting offensive linemen, a top linebacker, and just this week, their tight end because he had to transfer to Millbrook.
McHale told the team to “give the seniors a big hand,” for the example they set in helping the Colonels endure.
Naturally, James Wood senior Dakota Orndorff — who caught a deflected ball for his second interception of the game at the Millbrook (2-6, 1-1) 45 with 2.9 seconds left to set up Hepner’s final kneel-down — couldn’t have been happier after the final home game of the senior class’s career was over.
“This is definitely a big win,” Orndorff said. “We progressively got better all year. The coaches kept us together as a family, and we stuck it out.”
James Wood definitely needed its grit to win this one.
Millbrook — which saw a couple of special teams decisions backfire and committed some costly penalties (nine for 85 yards total) — led 6-0 at the half as a result of a 49-yard touchdown run by freshman running back P.K. Kier (20 carries, 135 yards) on a jet sweep around the left side with 6:12 left in the second quarter.
Though they were down just one score, James Wood’s offense had yet to get into any sort of rhythm at that point. The Colonels had just 57 yards to Millbrook’s 152, and only three first downs.
After receiving the second-half kickoff and gaining just two yards on their first two plays, it looked like James Wood was heading for a yet another three-and-out.
But on third-and-8, Hepner fired a low pass down the right seam that Nick Manuel — who had just started cutting left over the middle — miraculously managed to grab with one hand just before the ball hit the turf for a 25-yard gain that gave James Wood a first down at the Millbrook 30.
Three plays later, junior Landon Rutherford (13 carries, 80 yards, two touchdowns) found a big hole on the right side, and as he got near the goal line he powered his way through a few Pioneer defenders for a 12-yard touchdown run. Willi Spears’ extra-point kick gave James Wood a 7-6 lead with 9:42 left in the third quarter.
“That ball took a nosedive,” said McHale of Hepner’s pass to Manuel. “But when Nick went down there and grabbed it, it was big to get something going there. It gave us some excitement, and gave us the drive to go in and score.”
Millbrook nearly answered right away. The Pioneers needed just two plays to pick up 34 yards and get to the James Wood 31, where they had a second-and-1. But Millbrook lost a yard on a pass to Taylor James on second down, Kier picked up just one yard on third down, and Millbrook coach Josh Haymore elected to try and have Tyler Gray attempt a 48-yard field goal.
Haymore said the snap was off, and Gray’s attempt wound up short. The Pioneers would never get that close to James Wood’s end zone again.
In that situation, Haymore said he thought Gray and his booming leg were the best option. But in the first half, he elected not to let Gray try an extra-point. Millbrook went with its “muddle-huddle” look on that play, where they split most of their players to the outside before snapping. Haymore said the Pioneers felt like James Wood was aligned in a way that was vulnerable to a pass to the right, but the pass fell incomplete.
The failed conversion and missed field goal wound up being big late in the game, because Millbrook was forced to let Rutherford run untouched into the end zone from 37 yards out with 49 seconds left in order to get the ball back.
But down 13-6 and with the ball at their own 35, the Pioneers only went backward until freshman receiver Conor Hartigan’s desperate heave after two Millbrook pitches was intercepted at the end.
That was the last play in a stout James Wood defensive effort.
“Other than that jet sweep, we stopped the running game,” McHale said. “The quarterback, we did an excellent job dropping into coverage. We sacked him two or three times, and he held the ball and had to run several times. Our pass coverage has really gotten a lot better.”
Rutherford, who also plays linebacker, said the main thing was James Wood made stops when it had to.
“[Millbrook’s] penalties helped us, but we definitely stayed strong tonight and kept fighting,” he said.
Millbrook had a few costly penalties, including one holding call that wiped out a Kier 45-yard run to the James Wood 10 in the first half. Penalties were definitely what frustrated Haymore most.
“We can’t have penalties,” Haymore said.
For James Wood, the Colonels snapped its longest losing streak since a 21-game skid from 2002-2004. The Colonels won just one game in 2005 in Walter Barr’s first year back (interestingly enough, against Millbrook), before going on to a 7-3 year in 2006.
The hope is that this win will spark a similar renaissance.
“Tonight, the seniors won their last home game,” McHale said. “They’re the bridge builders. They’re going to start this thing and get the program going.”
— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at email@example.comFollow on Twitter @WinStarSports1