Judges take down Colonels 28-7
WINCHESTER — Playoff berths and district titles may not have been on the line Friday night, but any time James Wood and Handley meet on the gridiron it figures to be a brutal battle.
With just three wins between them coming into their annual regular season finale, both sides knew that it was the last time they’d strap on their helmets this season — and they played like it.
Capitalizing on Colonel turnovers right from the start, the Judges claimed a 28-7 victory at Jerry L. Kelican Stadium in a game that was in doubt until the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
“It was a good game [between] two teams that were searching for something and we were fortunate to win,” said Handley coach Tony Rayburn, whose team snapped a four-game losing streak with the victory.
“I’m proud of the kids, they came out and played hard and made some big plays.”
Handley (3-7, 1-3 Northwestern District) wasted little time, jumping out to a 14-0 lead in the first six minutes of the first quarter thanks to a pair of turnovers by James Wood (1-9, 0-4).
The Judges recovered a fumble on the opening kickoff at the Colonel 26-yard line and three plays later quarterback Will Dearing hit sophomore Justin Washington on a fade pass to the right-corner of the end zone.
The Colonels managed to hold onto the ensuing kick and were in the midst of a promising first drive when junior Dakota Orndorff caught a pass from quarterback Cam Butler along the left sideline.
But as he was turning up the field Orndorff was hammered by a Handley defender and lost control of the ball.
The Judges recovered the fumble at their own 39-yard line and went to work immediately.
Dearing (22 for 36 for 233 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions) found sophomore Jarett Cestaro for 36 yards on a 3rd-and-7 and running back Dontae Mauck did the rest, taking a pitch and sprinting to the left pylon from 10 yards out to make it 14-0 with 6:30 still remaining in the first quarter.
“It happens, it’s been happening,” said James Wood coach Mike Bolin about the disastrous start to the game. “It certainly didn’t make things easy.”
Not much has been easy for the Colonels this year, who followed up a season-opening win over Heritage with nine straight losses.
But a team with nothing to lose can be dangerous and James Wood refused to fold on its Senior Night.
After a pair of drives stalled in Handley territory, the Colonels finally found pay dirt when Butler (14 for 29 for 175 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions) rolled to his left and fired a strike to Orndorff (7 catches for 110 yards) between two Handley defenders to cut the lead to 14-7 midway through the second quarter.
The score would remain the same the rest of the half and the teams traded punts and turnovers-on-downs to start the third quarter before Orndorff stepped in front of a Dearing pass to give the Colonels the ball near midfield.
But much as they have all season, things quickly fell apart for James Wood.
Facing a 2nd-and-14 from their own 41, Butler took the snap after it appeared a Handley defender may have jumped offside.
No flag was thrown, though, and Butler’s pass bounced off the hands of Orndorff and into the arms of Judges cornerback Brian Thomas, who took it all the way down to the Colonel 31-yard line.
To make matters worse, James Wood was called for both a block in the back and unsportsmanlike penalties that moved the ball all the way down to the 11-yard line and set up a 4-yard touchdown run by Mauck.
“Mistakes have kind of been the story of our season,” said Bolin, whose team turned the ball over five times and was called for 10 penalties for 85 yards. “We’ve made a lot of mistakes this year.”
A holding penalty on the Colonels’ following drive negated a touchdown run by senior Bradley Skillman (26 carries, 129 rushing yards) and Washington picked off a pass attempt by Skillman off a trick play the next time James Wood got the ball.
The Judges put the game out of reach in the closing minutes when sophomore linebacker Brogan McPartland intercepted a pass by Butler and Dearing found senior Stuart Carper in the corner of the end zone from four yards out to make it 28-7.
“We’ve been looking for people to step up in every game and tonight a bunch of guys did that,” said Handley senior linebacker Skylar Wotring. “Those interceptions were big for us. We just kept battling, that’s what we do, and it’s a great feeling [to get the win].”
Wotring and the Handley defense limited James Wood to just 28 yards rushing in the second half and forced the Colonels to turn the ball over on downs four separate times.
Dearing failed in his bid to throw for 300 yards for the third straight game (he threw for 359 yards against Skyline two weeks ago and for 346 yards against Millbrook last week) but he did complete passes to six different receivers and, most importantly, helped the Judges to a win.
“I thought we played pretty well. Give James Wood credit, they could have easily stopped after falling behind 14-0 but they battled us,” Rayburn said.
“We sent our seniors out with a win and hopefully we got something to build off of for our underclassmen. That’s what we wanted. Both teams played hard and it was a good game.”
— Contact Kevin Trudgeon at email@example.comFollow on Twitter @WinStarSports1