BEALETON — Friday's Class 4 Northwestern District football clash at Liberty couldn't have started much worse for James Wood.
Less than five minutes into the game against the unbeaten Eagles, the Colonels trailed by 16 points and they would get no closer than that over the final 43 minutes.
Liberty's Dylan Bailey passed for four touchdowns and ran for another as the Eagles amassed 573 yards of total offense in a 50-21 romp against James Wood.
Carson Hoberg fired three TD passes, two to Jaden Ashby, but the Colonels (5-2, 2-2) struggled the majority of the game on offense as they saw their five-game winning snapped.
Liberty established control from the start, needing just six plays to march 75 yards after the opening kickoff. The final 40 came as Bailey rolled left and found Tre'Von White streaking down the left sidelines for a touchdown. Justin Lawson's two-point conversion made it 8-0 just 2:40 into the contest.
The Colonels' first possession lasted just two plays, a six-yard loss and a fumble that Liberty's Michael Baldwin fell on at the James Wood 37. On third-and-6, Bailey hit Wyatt Hicks for 28 yards down the middle. On the next play, Markkel Newman scored from the 5 and Bailey hit White for the conversion to make it 16-0 just 4:18 into the contest.
"It was good," Bailey said of the start. "A lot of games we have been starting off bad. I'm not going to lie. It was definitely good to take the lead."
"That was a frustrating start because we thought we would hold up better than that," Colonels coach Ryan Morgan said.
It would get worse. The Colonels did get a pair of stops, but their offense could not move the ball against Eagles.
Bailey completed three passes to three different receivers for 34 yards and then capped a 56-yard drive with a seven-yard TD run behind an excellent block from White. Mason Gay's conversion run made it 24-0 with 9:12 left in the first half.
"We came out on all cylinders," Liberty coach Travis Buzzo said. "It was 24-0 before I even knew it."
After going a quarter without a first down, James Wood finally got some offense going on their next drive, a 63-yarder. Ashby (5 catches, 75 yards) played a key role with a 14-yard catch for the Colonels' initial first down and a 26-yard run on a jet sweep. He capped off the drive with a 14-yard slant from Hoberg and Chris Garcia's extra point made it 24-7.
Liberty bounced right back, marching 69 yards on nine plays. Bailey went 3-for-4 on the drive and capped it with a 14-yard TD pass to tight end Jordan Hicks to make it 30-7.
Bailey rarely faced pressure in the half as he picked apart the Colonels for 210 passing yards at the break.
"Bailey has played well all year," Buzzo said. "I think our O-line played really, really well tonight in giving him plenty of time to throw."
"I got a lot of time," said Bailey, who completed 13 of 23 attempts (with several drops) in the first half. "Our O-line was blocking their butts off tonight, man. I love it. I love having the time to make the read and our wide receivers are dogs. They get open and I just put it where it is so they can get it."
"We weren't getting much pressure at all," Morgan said. "It was kind of frustrating because we have some guys who can get to the quarterback. They are not a huge offensive line, but they are well-coached and they are solid. ... Our guys are smaller and they have to use quickness and get off blocks and that wasn't happening."
The Colonels didn't look like a beaten team to start the final two quarters. Taking the kickoff, they needed just 29 seconds to march 63 yards. Hoberg completed a 23-yard pass to Jayson Herndon and was roughed on the next play to put the ball at the 25. On the next play, he found Ashby over the middle and the sophomore juked one defender and sped to the right corner of the end zone to make it 30-14.
"We made some adjustments and talked to the kids at halftime," Morgan said. "The kids didn't panic or anything. They were all in it and focused and we came out and did some good things offensively in the second half. But again, we made some turnovers and allowed too many big plays on defense."
The Eagles got one of those plays, scoring in spectacular fashion on their next drive. On fourth-and-7 from the Colonels' 32, Bailey lofted a pass to left corner of the end zone. White and the Colonels' Lavaughan Freeman, two players known also for their dunking skills on the basketball court, went up for the ball and somehow White plucked it on the way down to the ground for the score. Newman's conversion run increased the lead to 38-14.
Bailey's final TD pass, a five-yarder to Wyatt Hicks, made the score 44-14.
Bailey, who finished 17-of-36 for 272 yards, completed multiple passes to five different receivers, including five to White for 109 yards. Gay (11 carries, 124 yards) and Newman (16 for 89) helped the Eagles rack up 301 yards on the ground.
"Most teams that we've come across, they have got one or two guys who can hurt you in multiple ways and make big plays," Morgan said. "They had a few. ... They've got good backs and receivers. Their quarterback was doing a good job finding the open guy."
Hoberg tossed a 33-yard TD strike to Herndon with 3:22 left. Sahmer Ismael scored on a two-yard run for the Eagles with 4.8 seconds left.
Hoberg completed 12 of 23 attempts for 180 yards and was picked off once. He also fumbled twice as he tried to avoid a big pass rush.
The Colonels ground game struggled, especially in the first half when they gained just 24 yards on 15 carries. They finished with 105 yards on the ground, 88 of those coming on three of their 28 carries.
"They do a good job up front with their defensive line and their linebackers," Morgan said of Liberty. "That was one of the focuses this week. They dominated the line of scrimmage to be honest. They were getting up field. We needed to make sure we were cutting off penetration and we weren't."
Morgan said the Colonels would hit the film room on Saturday morning, since they will travel to Fauquier on Thursday because of an officials' shortage.
"With the game moved up one day, there's no time to waste," said Morgan, who stressed to his team after the game that it is still in the playoff hunt. "They are a resilient bunch. We have a lot of seniors and good leadership. I think they'll move on to next week."
Liberty has a big matchup with Millbrook (5-2, 3-1) on Friday.
"It was a very big confidence builder, but we'll still come out Monday and do everything we do and grind, grind, grind for the next team," Bailey said of beating the Colonels. "And, the next team isn't easy so that's what we are going to do."