The Woodruff football team had an equal share of question marks and securities entering the 2019 season.
Now, with five games in the books and region play commencing following a scheduled bye week, the Wolverines are ready to embark on their quest for a region title with many of those uncertainties now answered and accounted for.
Senior quarterback B.J. Bailey, in his first year as the full-time starter, has progressed nicely in the passing game. Running back Shamare Dendy has been electric, and wide receiver Omarion McKelvin is in the midst of another stellar campaign as Woodruff begins its Region III-3A slate at 3-2 overall, with the two setbacks coming against highly-ranked teams.
It has been a roller coaster first half of the season, but Head Coach Bradley Adams is pleased with the progress his team has made.
“The biggest area of improvement has been at the quarterback position,” Adams said. “B.J. has worked through some difficult and challenging situations during the first games. He has used each of those situations to learn from and has grown from them in a positive way. We have also been really pleased with our kicking game (with Noah Gaspar and Bailey).”
The last contest for Woodruff, on the road at undefeated and Class 3A No. 2 ranked Chapman, showed just how far the 2019 Wolverines have come, albeit in a loss.
Trailing 28-7 at the half, Woodruff roared back in the second half behind the arm of Bailey and the hands and athletic ability of McKelvin, falling just short of upsetting the state’s highest scoring offensive team in a 49-35 shootout.
It was that second half effort, effectiveness, and precision, however, that gives Adams cause for optimism as the conference schedule kicks off with two perennial powers on tap, the Newberry Bulldogs and Union County Yellow Jackets.
“It is extremely important to build off of the second half of Chapman,” he said. “After watching film, we really had some guys who were really giving maximum effort and intensity during the second half of the game. We have to find 11 guys to put on the field at all times to give us that intensity level.”
The Wolverines’ three wins, against county rivals Chesnee and Broome, and the Seneca Bobcats, all provided thrilling moments and highlighted the collective talents of the team.
Bailey has settled in, completing 64 percent of his passes this season for 761 yards and eight touchdowns. Dendy has rushed for 570 yards and five scores, averaging a solid 7.6 yards per carry. McKelvin has reeled in 22 passes for 373 yards and four touchdowns and against Chapman took to the air on a double pass, recording his first career passing touchdown.
Defensively, the secondary is a ball-hawking unit with six interceptions to its credit. Marquel Evins has three, Dendy two, and Tyler West one. Perhaps the biggest question mark prior to the season, the offensive line, has answered any naysayers as well, paving the way for a powerful running game while keeping Bailey upright to the tune of just one sack allowed.
With momentum on their side, and with perhaps their two most important games of the season coming up, Adams says his team just has to continue getting better and building on what it has already accomplished.
“The best part of the game against Chapman was the fight in the guys,” Adams said. “At no point did any of them stop playing. We were very happy with how we were able to control our emotions in the game.”
Woodruff hopes the 2019 regular season will culminate with an emotional celebration of their first conference crown since 2015.