With playoff loss to top-ranked Champan Panthers
By Garrett Mitchell
The Woodruff football team fell in the third round of the 3A playoffs to the Chapman Panthers, ending what was a renaissance season for the Wolverines in 2019.
Woodruff saw new faces at many key positions this season, and at times felt growing pains, but gelled by season’s end and forged deeper into the postseason than any Wolverine team since 2011.
It was a successful campaign that Head Coach Bradley Adams says saw his team make many strides towards a successful future.
“The two biggest strides we have made this year are, first, we have gained a better understanding of the importance of defense,” Adams said.
“We have young men who are understanding that we have to be able to play good defense to win big ball games. Many of our players have bought into the fact that defense is where the success comes from. Second, the team now has a taste of what it is like to get out of the first round of the playoffs and make a deep run. Hopefully this will be something these young men will work to continue to build on.”
Following a 7-3 regular season and second place finish in Region III-3A, the Wolverines ran roughshod over Indian Land and Pendleton in the first two rounds of the playoffs before falling to top-ranked Chapman. Prior to that defeat, Woodruff had won six consecutive ballgames.
Quarterback B.J. Bailey, a senior in his only season as a starter, put together a stellar campaign for the Wolverines. Bailey tallied 1,832 passing yards and 20 touchdowns, with his main threat, Omarion McKelvin, hauling in 46 receptions for 710 yards and eight scores.
A potent ground game, however, was the catalyst for the Woodruff offense.
Junior tailback Shamare Dendy was superb, finishing with 1,126 yards and 11 touchdowns. Demi Dale was a talented compliment, both at tailback and linebacker, as the senior added 366 yards and five scores on the ground.
The Wolverines will graduate a large senior class of 24 players, over half of the roster, and that group, said Adams, has paved the way for the future players who aim to sustain a winning culture at Woodruff.
“These seniors have worked very hard, sacrificed a lot of time, and bought into our program over the last two years,” he said. “Many of them have given up a lot of family time, free time, and time from work to be a part of our program. They are a very committed group of young people who we were very appreciative to coach.”
With the 2020 season now nine months away, it will fall to a talented group of underclassmen as well as a strong corps from a highly competitive junior varsity team to elevate the program even higher. Current freshman Carson Tucker will be in the mix to start at quarterback next season and Dendy returns to anchor the backfield along with electric freshman Nemo Cochran and blazing wide receiver Zy Scott.
Veteran Nic Robertson will return to anchor the offensive and defensive lines next year, along with current freshman defensive lineman Capone Jackson. The secondary looks to be in good shape with Dendy, Scott, and Jailen Tribble returning.
Adams says getting so many young players game experience on the varsity level late in the season will be beneficial going forward as he and his staff begins to prepare for next season.
“This experience has helped many of our younger payers,” Adams said. “The more practice time you are able to use, the better the players get. We had several young men make huge strides during the playoffs that allowed them to compete for starting jobs the last two weeks of the season. Earlier in the year they were not even in the rotation, but with all of the extra practice they continued to improve. That experience gives them a lot of confidence going into next year.”