NEWARK — The jump from freshman football to varsity football is one matter.
That D’ante Woods did not even start for the Newark freshman team makes his quick ascension to starter on the varsity team all the more remarkable. Woods grabbed hold of the starting running back spot earlier this season, and he is running with it.
“This year, I stepped up and moved up the varsity charts. You just don’t see that happen too often,” Woods said. “I did lift a lot (during the offseason). The battle between me and (Levi McKee) was really there.”
Woods ran for 120 yards and a score in Week 2 against Mount Vernon, and he was racing toward duplicating that performance a week later against Licking Heights. He had 80 yards in the first half, including a run for 41 on his second carry, but he sat out the second with a minor injury.
In that loss to Heights, the Wildcats showed their potential on one first-quarter drive in particular. Woods had runs of 7, 5 and 5 and quarterback Ty Scott runs of 10 and 11 yards before McKee capped the drive with a 10-yard touchdown run.
“Before the game we always talk about it that it doesn’t matter which one of us scores as long as we get the job done and split the carries,” said Woods, of his friendly rivalry with McKee.
The Newark offense encountered some adversity Friday when matched up against Pickerington North. The seasoned Panthers shut out the Wildcats for the fourth consecutive season.
Woods did manage 65 yards on 10 carries while Scott’s trial by fire continued.
“A lot of these teams are a year or two stronger than us, and unfortunately like it or not, we are going to have some successes, but there are going to be some times where we take our lumps,” said coach Mike Kopachy, whose team had been playing without injured captains quarterback Kaleb Jarrett and lineman Vinnie Pancini.
Jarrett remains out, and Pancini returned against North for just limited action on offense.
Newark’s opportunities on offense were limited against North. With the Panthers dominating possession, McKee stayed on the defensive side of the ball.
That, however, does not mean Woods can let his guard down. Kopachy is looking forward to having two quality running backs for the next 21/2 seasons.
“With them being young guys, we need them to share the workload, but certainly you have to feed the guy that’s hot,” Kopachy said. “That’s why it was a shame that D’ante had to go out after the first half (against Heights). Eighty yards on 11 carries is a pretty good clip. He has really stepped up his game as far as the consistency of being a running back.
“McKee is no slouch either. He is a power-type guy, but he has some speed, too.”
Aug. 28: @Zanesville 20, Newark 17
Sept. 4: Mount Vernon 48, Newark 22
Sept. 11: @Heights 48, Newark 26
Sept. 18: Pick. North 41, Newark 0
Sept. 25: @Gahanna, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 2: Grove City, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 9: Groveport, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 16: @Pickerington Central, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 23: Reynoldsburg, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 30: @Lancaster, 7:30 p.m.