Week 11 Football Previews
Handley at James Wood
When: Tonight, 7
Where: James Wood’s Jerry L. Kelican Stadium, Winchester
Records: Handley (2-7, 0-3 Northwestern District); James Wood (1-8, 0-3)
Last week: Handley lost to Millbrook 27-24; James Wood lost to Fauquier 48-8
Last year: Handley won 21-13
Preview: Given the recent history of these two squads, tonight’s rivalry matchup will indeed be played under unusual circumstances.
The Judges — winners of at least a share of four Northwestern District titles from 2008-11— are staring at their first non-playoff season since 2002. Handley (17.3) is ninth in the Region II, Division 3 ratings, more than a full point behind Loudoun Valley (18.6), which currently holds the eighth and final spot. Even if Handley does win, it would be their lowest win total since 1986, and its last two-win season was in 1983.
James Wood will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2006. Regardless of tonight’s outcome, the Colonels will finish with their fewest wins since they went 1-9 in 2005.
But it’s still Handley and James Wood, a historic rivalry that the Judges lead 33-16-1 after winning 23 of the last 25 contests.
“You always look forward to playing one of your rivals,” James Wood coach Mike Bolin said. “It means a lot to the team, and we’re going to give everything we have.”
“They’re having a rough season, just like we are,” Rayburn said. “It’s a rivalry, and it should be a good game. We’re looking forward to it.”
The Judges have a bit more reason to have some bounce in their step following Will Dearing’s second consecutive 300-yard passing day. Against Millbrook, Dearing completed 29 for 44 for 346 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions and kept his team in the game.
“Will threw really well,” said Rayburn, whose one issue was that the Judges had too many turnovers (five overall). “We don’t want that many turnovers, but those things can happen when you throw the ball 40-50 times a game.
“Will sensed the rush, and he made the right moves when he went to throw. The line protected him well, and the receivers ran good routes. It was big to see the development of the other receivers, because teams have been trying to take away Justin [Washington].”
Running and receiving threat Dontae Mauck had eight catches for 115 yards and one touchdown and wide receiver Stuart Carper had five catches for 71 yards and a touchdown.
Bolin said the game must be slowing down for Dearing given the quality of his opponents, and the Colonels will have to find a way to slow down Dearing some. James Wood is giving up 157 passing yards per game.
Benefiting the Colonels will be the return of their own signal caller. Bolin gave a lot of credit to sophomore Colin Benner for stepping in at quarterback last week against a talented Fauquier squad, but he said it will be good to have junior Cam Butler back. He was injured in the fourth quarter two weeks ago against Millbrook.
“I just want to see a good effort, and hopefully show some improvement on some of the things we’ve been working on the last two weeks,” Bolin said.
Rayburn said he feels James Wood is very much capable of breaking out in the running game because of its offensive line, and if the Judges start slow, the Colonels could get into a rhythm with it.
“We’ve been playng really well in the box, defending from tight end to tackle,” Rayburn said. “We’ve just got to limit the big play.”
Clarke County at William Monroe
When: Tonight, 7:30
Where: William Monroe High School, Stanardsville
Records: Clarke County (5-4, 2-3 Bull Run District); William Monroe (1-8, 1-4)
Last week: Clarke County beat George Mason 35-14; William Monroe lost to Manassas Park 56-6
Last year: Clarke County won 46-21
Preview: Chris Parker is more than capable of delivering a fiery halftime speech to wake his team up, but he’s hoping he won’t have to tonight.
In each of the Eagles’ past two games, a sluggish first half was followed by an inspired second half.
While that formula worked to the tune of 28 unanswered points in a 35-14 win over George Mason last week, Clarke County dug itself too big a hole against Manassas Park the week earlier in a 40-28 loss.
Either way, Parker is hoping his team’s recent propensity for slow starts has run its course.
“We talked about it, talked about how we needed to be focused and be ready to play right from the start,” said Parker, whose team has been outscored 41-13 in the first half the past two weeks.
“The storm hurt us because we didn’t have school Monday or Tuesday so we weren’t allowed to practice. So to be honest, we’ve spent most of our time getting ready for the game. But we did address it.”
One way to get going early is to get on the scoreboard quickly and Clarke County should find some success against a William Monroe defense that’s allowing more than 54 points per game.
The Eagles will be without big-play receiver Todd Benton, who Parker said will be sidelined with a hamstring injury, but the duo of sophomore quarterback Sean McDonald (750 yards passing, 606 yards rushing and 12 total TDs) and senior running back Davey Hardesty (1,047 yards rushing and 18 TDs) should have a field day against the Dragon’s D.
“On film you can see that they’re giving up a lot of points and we’re hoping we can move the ball and score on them,” Parker said.
While the defense has been porous, the offense has been respectable for William Monroe, averaging nearly 24 points per game.
The Dragons have scored over 40 points on three separate occasions — including their lone victory on the season, a 48-35 win over George Mason — and Parker said they can pose problems with their multiple looks.
“They do a little bit of everything,” Parker said. “They spread you out, they run the option, they run out of the spread. They do a lot of different things that you have to prepare for.”
One thing the Eagles are hoping they’re prepared for is an end to their slow-starting ways.
“We have to come out with energy. We’re capable of doing very good things, we just need to step it up,” Parker said. “We’ve got a long bus ride down there, so we have to make sure we don’t get lulled to sleep and get off the bus ready to play. I’ll be looking for that energy to start the game.”
— Compiled by Robert Niedzwiecki and Kevin Trudgeon