WINCHESTER — As James Wood's football players came together for an end-of-practice discussion on Monday afternoon, one of them yelled: "It's Sherando week! Let's go!"
The Colonels hope the makeup of this year's team results in Sherando week ending better than the last few years.
Sherando travels to James Wood in the season and Class 4 Northwestern District opener for both teams at 7:05 p.m. tonight at Kelican Stadium, and the Warriors are looking to continue their mastery of the Frederick County rivalry.
Sherando leads the all-time series 27-2 and has not lost to the Colonels since 2008. The last few years have been particularly lopsided, though. Since James Wood gave Sherando everything it could handle in a 14-10 loss in 2015 when then Colonels' current seniors were in eighth grade, the Warriors have followed up with wins of 34-0, 58-8 and 65-6.
Last year, key James Wood players William Crowder (running back/defensive back), Jackson Turner (running back/linebacker) and Carson Hoberg (quarterback) all exited the Sherando game with injuries at Arrowhead Stadium. A Sherando team that dominated play no matter who was on the field went on to take a 44-0 lead at halftime and did permit a score until there were 14 seconds remaining. The Warriors finished with a 427-161 yardage edge.
This year's James Wood team is older (Crowder, Turner, and Hoberg are among the 22 seniors out of 37 players on the roster after having only 14 seniors last year) and the Colonels feel they're also stronger physically than last year's 4-6 team. And while Sherando's recent tradition is unmatched (12 playoff berths in 14 years, no losing seasons since 2002), the Warriors aren't quite as experienced in 2019 after losing nine primary offensive starters and more than half of their defensive starters from last year's district champion squad that went 10-2.
Whether the Colonels can buck history against Sherando remains to be seen, but they're not going to caught up in the recent past.
"We're going to put last year behind us," said James Wood senior running back/linebacker Sam Adkins (566 yards and 7 TDs rushing; 72 tackles last year). "We've got a whole new lineup."
One that's ready for anything. In James Wood's second scrimmage the Colonels took on Boonsboro, a Class 1 Maryland playoff team last year that went 8-3. Turner (607 yards and 8 TDs rushing; 73 tackles) thought it was good preparation for the type of intensity the Colonels will see from the Warriors tonight.
"We knew [Boonsboro] was going to be a hard-nosed team, and that was very good for us, because Sherando is also a hard-nosed team," Turner said. "Boonsboro's a good team, and we came out with a solid victory. I'm very confident that our team is going to come out very strong against Sherando this year."
James Wood coach Ryan Morgan agreed that Boonsboro was a good test.
"They're a tough running football team," Morgan said. "The kids, they received a little more physicality and they had to be a little bit more physical themselves. Boonsboro has a pretty good running back who was running some of us over. They learned how to be more physical, how to come up and tackle."
Morgan also said that his players showed a better understanding of what the Colonels are doing on offense in the second scrimmage after he felt the execution was lacking in the team's first scrimmage against Hampshire (W.Va.).
"Last week we tightened some things up, but we had a film session [Monday], and there were still lots of things to fix," Morgan said. "Hopefully we're continuing to ascend."
Adkins, Crowder (711 rushing yards, six TDs), Turner and Hoberg (45 of 96 for 802 yards, 5 TDs and 11 interceptions) headline an offense that Sherando coach Bill Hall said is going to look a little different this year.
"They're more spread," Hall said. "Not that they couldn't come out in their traditional Wing-T stuff, but [they'll have] more two-by-two and three-by-one [receiver combinations]. They've got some good skill kids and their quarterback does a good job of distributing the ball. They're different from last year when they were all compressed [in their formation]."
Sherando senior wide receiver/defensive back Jabril Hayes (19 catches, 280 yards, 3 TDs, 51 tackles, 4 interceptions) said he likes what he's seeing from Sherando's defense as it prepares for James Wood's offense.
"Our first scrimmage [against Musselman], we were just trying to get our feet wet and get comfortable," Hayes said. "In the second scrimmage [against Spotswood], we just let it all out. We just wanted to fly around and make plays, and I thought that the team did great. [Against James Wood], we need to go out and make the adjustments that we have and fly around and make plays like we usually do."
Sherando definitely has players who can disrupt a team's passing attack. Senior middle linebacker Payne Bauer — a Class 4 all-state first-team selection last year — leads the way after 106 tackles and 7.5 sacks last year. Fellow inside linebacker McKinley Dean is Sherando's No. 2 returning tackler this year with 71.
"Their inside linebackers are really good," Morgan said. "We have to get a hat on a hat on their inside linebackers.
"The biggest thing is we have to be physical up front. We have to match their physicality. Our offensive line needs to hold up and help us move the ball more than what they have in the past."
The Colonels have settled on a starting offensive line of left tackle Seth DeHaven, left guard Kevin Brown, center Hayden Cunningham, right guard Austin Schmitt and right tackle Bradley Sions.
James Wood's offense won't be the only one with a different look tonight.
Sherando will be led by dual-threat quarterback Chacai Campbell, a junior who completed 25 of 36 passes for 309 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions and rushed for 40 times for 311 yards and four TDs while seeing action in three games when former three-year starter Hunter Entsminger was injured.
Morgan said James Wood has also seen plenty of sophomore Dylan Rodeffer at quarterback in Sherando's scrimmages. More of a pocket passer, Rodeffer was the Warriors's starting JV quarterback last year.
"We don't know exactly what their quarterback situation is," Morgan said. "[Campbell and Rodeffer] have different skill sets. Since they bring two different things to the game, the kids almost have to study twice as much to make sure they're studying all avenues. They're a different team, but they still present a lot of challenges."
Sherando lost three-year starting running back in T.J. Washington, but Morgan feels like the Colonels are still going to have their hands full after watching their senior Darius Lane (41 carries, 223 yards, 2 TDs) in action during the preseason.
"I thought they might take a step back at the running back position because T.J. graduated," Morgan said. "But we've seen Darius Lane in a couple of scrimmages break tackles. He's a physical runner and he's fast. He had a couple of long runs — one against Musselman and one against Spotswood where he looked really good."
Sherando has just one returning starter on its offensive line, but Morgan was impressed with the group led by all-state selection and left tackle Keith Gouveia.
"Efficiency is what we're always looking at," said Hall when asked about his team's offensive keys for tonight's game. "If we can stay on schedule, that allows us to be explosive and attack. We want to be opportunistic in terms of attacking what they're trying to take away."
Tonight's game figured to draw a big crowd simply because it's the season opener between two local teams, but James Wood is expecting a particularly large gathering because of the pregame field-naming ceremony for former head coach Walter Barr. Barr coached James Wood for seven seasons over two stints (including the 1970 Group AAA state championship) and Sherando for four seasons, including state title game appearances in 1995-96. The field will be known as Walter Barr Field at Jerry Kelican Stadium. Gates open at 5:15 p.m. and the ceremony starts at 6:40. Tickets for the game are $5.
James Wood's respect for Barr is one of the things that has it particularly motivated for tonight's game.
"We're going to do this game for him," Turner said. "This is about James Wood and how much work we've put in, and it's about someone like him who's built a legacy at this school."
"So many people have been influenced by him," Morgan said. "It's going to be exciting to get him out on the field, and hopefully he'll get the warm welcome he deserves."
Hall coached against Barr from 2005 to 2007. That included Barr's final game, the classic 2007 playoff contest that Sherando won 21-14 after rallying from a 14-0 third-quarter deficit and stopping James Wood a foot short of the goal line on the final play of the game.
"Anything that you would do to recognize Coach Barr, who's meant a lot to Frederick County, Sherando and James Wood specifically, is a good thing in my eyes," Hall said. "I respect Coach Barr a lot and I'm glad he's getting recognized."