Young Wildcats impress in spring game


The Woodland football team will be anchored predominantly by seniors this coming fall. That experience was evident in Friday night's spring game against KIPP Collegiate, as the first-team offense and defense looked crisp and rarely out of position.

"Obviously, you can see the knowledge of the scheme, both offensively and defensively," Woodland head coach Tony Plott said. "We didn't have any trouble getting lined up defensively, we made our checks and we should at this point in their career. Most of them are all seniors."

However, there was a smattering of younger players in that first unit that stood out in the Wildcats' 24-21 victory — a result that flattered the visitors, who trailed 24-7 entering the fourth quarter.

"We're really excited about our rising sophomores and our incoming freshmen," Plott said. "I think there's a large number in both classes. There's some really good athletes and a really good mixture of linemen and skill kids."

Rising sophomore Jimmy Davis looked good out of the backfield. His mixture of power and speed helped him pile up 107 yards on 10 carries, including two first-half touchdowns.

"He's a strong kid," Plott said. "He doesn't look real big, but he's a strong kid. He's fast; he can run."

Defensively, Nick Bailey and Blake Cash, who are finishing up their freshman and sophomore seasons, respectively, showed plenty of potential. Cash had a strip sack out of his linebacker spot, drilling the KIPP quarterback off a blindside blitz.

The two quarterbacks who saw time under center were also both rising sophomores.

"I think with both of those guys, we can keep letting our offense evolve a little bit," Plott said.

Jakob Foss received a vast majority of the snaps and led touchdown drives on each of the three drives he saw to completion. That included Woodland's opening drive of the third quarter, which he finished off with a three-yard touchdown run.

Johnathan Thomas played the remaining snaps, leading a second-quarter drive that ended in a field goal by rising senior Rony Ramirez.

"He has a strong leg," Plott said of Ramirez. "He hit a couple of 50-yarders the other day in practice. We're excited to have him."

Of course, there were plenty of rising seniors besides Ramirez who showed why they're entrenched at their positions.

Justice Carter adjusted his position a bit on the field to fill in for the injured Demarcus Williams, but the workhorse showed his bulldozer ability grinding out 88 yards on 12 rushing attempts.

The lone interception of the night — although there could have been several others — landed in the hands of Reed Finley, who showed his tailback pedigree with a solid run after the catch.

At cornerback, Jaylen Ballard continued to show why he should be a hot commodity on the recruiting trail next fall.

Also out of the defensive backfield, safety Titus Jones, per usual, flew around, making solid tackles all over the field.

"We expect Titus to be a leader out there, and he's becoming one," Plott said. "Obviously, he's a very good football player and he's very physical. ... He makes us a lot better when he's on the field, you saw that tonight. He was probably the most physical kid out there, all over the field."

The dynamite safety, unfortunately for a Woodland perspective, was one of the few players Plott felt like played with the intensity he was hoping to see.

In that regard, it was a somewhat disappointing conclusion to the spring schedule. Overall, though Plott was pleased with how the earliest portion of the 2018 season played out.

"As with most coaches in the state, you want to get through spring practice and lay down the foundation of you offense, your defense and the fundamentals of tackling," Plott said. "You don't want to pick up any injuries. Unfortunately, we had one that's going to hurt us. On the first day of spring, we had a guy tear his ACL. We're going to miss him. It was Carson Knox, who played offensive line for us. That's a negative for us.

"All the other stuff for us — the growth we saw with the team, the numbers we saw — is all positive. I wish we had played with a little more intensity tonight. It's hot, it's a scrimmage game and the kids knew kind of how the quarters were going to be broke down. I think that had a little bit to do with it also."