Win and in — it’s a position any high school football team will gladly take heading into the final game of the season.
A victory by the Pioneers (6-3, 4-2 Class 4 Northwestern District) against struggling Culpeper County (1-8, 0-6) at 7 p.m. at home tonight will put Millbrook in the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season.
If James Wood beats Handley on Saturday, Millbrook can get the Northwestern District’s No. 2 seed and a home playoff game. It can also capture the Barr-Lindon Crimson Apple trophy that is given to the team that fares best in Winchester-Frederick County games.
But first things first.
“I think we’ll probably have about the entire team at Handley on Saturday,” Millbrook coach Josh Haymore said. “I told them you can go, but the biggest thing is you’ve got to take care of business on Friday or it doesn’t matter what happens on Saturday. If we don’t come out and play on Friday and we don’t come out and practice on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, we’re not going to be able to think about whether we have to play [undefeated] Broad Run in the first round or Loudoun Valley in the first round. Because next week won’t happen.”
The Pioneers will take on a Culpeper team that has lost seven straight games since beating Monticello on Sept. 6, including all six of its district games. A week ago, Kettle Run picked up its first win of the year by defeating the Blue Devils 28-14.
As several other local coaches have pointed out, one thing Culpeper has going for it is that the Blue Devils are difficult to prepare for on offense.
“They have shown everybody everything,” Haymore said. “They’ve had single-wing the past two games a little bit, they’ve had spread, they’ve had double slot, they’ve had twins with I [formation]. You name it, they’ve run it.
“It’s kind of like a two-game pattern. Every two games, you get something different from them. We’re preparing for just about everything, just being sound as we can possibly be on defense. I don’t know if it’s their game plan each time to put their kids in the best position to do different things so they can change up and throw people off. Overall, they’re trying to get the ball to [Riley Harrison], their running back and to [DeJour McCray], who’s their [top] receiver.”
The player tasked with trying to get those players the ball is quarterback JoJo Crenshaw, who completed only 5 of 21 passes for 66 yards last week against Kettle Run. Haymore pointed out that Millbrook struggled to contain James Wood quarterback Carson Hoberg’s scrambling ability last week (the Colonels senior extended plays and threw for 162 yards and a TD and ran for 41 yards and a TD) but Haymore said Crenshaw isn’t the mobile threat that Hoberg is.
“[Crenshaw] can fling it, I know that,” Haymore said. “He can throw it pretty good. He knows how to put the ball in the right place.”
Harrison had 83 yards on 12 carries and a 34-yard TD run. McCray might be the Culpeper player capable of doing the most damage. Haymore considers the 6-foot-1 McCray, who has offers to play Division I basketball, to be the team’s best athlete.
Millbrook will attack Culpeper with an offense that exploded for 591 yards last week against James Wood even without the services of top running back Gavin Evosirch who is injured.
Quarterback Kaden Buza threw for 336 yards and three TDs and now has 2,259 yards, 24 touchdowns and five interceptions on 124-of-227 passing. Jordan Jackson (38 catches for 871 yards and nine TDs for the season) was one of four Millbrook receivers who had at least 70 yards receiving against the Colonels. Diante Ball moved over from receiver and picked up 239 yards and ran for three TDs in place of Evosirch.
The Pioneers will go up against a Culpeper defense that is giving up 30.3 points per game. Haymore said Culpeper will show four- and three-man fronts.
“Their nose tackle [James Jeffries] is a big dude, and sometimes we’ve struggled a little bit when we get in with a big nose tackle,” Haymore said. “We’ve just got to come out and execute.”