By Matt Nestor
Prep Sports Reporter
There are running backs with bigger names. There are running backs with bigger stats. But the Machesney Park Harlem Huskies have the biggest running back in the stateline area.
Senior De Woods stands 6-foot-2 and comes in at 225 pounds. That is a big size for a running back on any level.
Woods is more than just the size, however. He is a great athlete, a standout on the basketball floor, skills that serve him well on the football field.
“De Woods is an amazing player. I’m happy we have him on our team,” teammate Malik Lightfoot said. “He is just one of those guys that you basically just can’t tackle.”
That has been evident on multiple occasions this season. There was a play in the game against the Rockford Boylan Catholic Titans where Woods was met in the hole by the Titans’ Zachary Matthews, one of the hardest hitters in the state.
Not only did Woods stay upright, the hit by Matthews helped Woods bounce out and make a big run that helped set up a Harlem touchdown.
The toughness with which he runs was never more obvious than it was against Rockford Auburn Friday night, Oct. 4. In the midst of a 20-0 comeback that saw Harlem win 21-20, Woods took a hand off from the 13-yard line of Auburn and was met by defenders around the 10. Woods, as well as those defenders, thanks to a little help from his linemen, made it all the way down to the 1-yard line.
“I felt one of the big plays for us was the one that looked like a 22-man scrum by the goal line,” Harlem Head Coach Jim Morrow said. “Looked like everyone for both sides were pushing, and luckily, we had the surge in our direction.”
As a junior, Woods spent most of his time as just a short-yardage back, picking up the big yard when the team needed it. This season, he started off as a change-of-pace bruiser. But each week, the team looks to him more and more to help win the game.
“Every week, he is doing more and more for us for sure,” Morrow said. “We’re lucky to have him. He does a good job of pushing and holding on to the ball.”
Woods, for his part, looks to just be a cog in the wheel. But during the Huskies’ comeback against Auburn, everything the Harlem offense did started with Woods and his ability to move the chains.
“We had to correct the little things to get a little bit better,” Woods said. “As the game went on, (Auburn) weren’t really in it. As soon as we got the first touchdown, and then the next touchdown, it inspired us to keep it going.”
As the Huskies look to make a playoff push while trying to win some big games coming up, they know they have a major weakness they need to correct.
“We definitely have to adjust the slow starts that we get ourselves into,” Morrow said.
An easy solution to that is to lean on Woods. The big back can shoulder the load, and if the Huskies climb on those broad shoulders, they just may be able to make a lot more noise in the playoffs than they have in the past.
From the Oct. 9-15, 2013, issue