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Kevin Woods On The Gridiron
By Paul Paterra

Recently, most of the Division I collegiate talent in the City League has been found at schools such as Perry, Westinghouse, Schenley and Brashear.

Cases in point include Perry's dynamic duo of Rod Rutherford and Robb Butler, who each matriculated to the University of Pittsburgh, and Brashear's Rasheed Marshall, who ended up at the University of West Virginia.

This year, Division I recruiters are making contact with South Vo-Tech High School. That's right, the school that has won just 10 games in the decade of the 1990s has drawn interest from major colleges.

There's a good reason for the coaches to be making this detour. He stands 6-4, weighs 200 pounds, and runs the 40 in about 4.5 seconds. He's Kevin Woods, a wide receiver and defensive back for the South Orioles; and he's good.

"He catches the ball anywhere," said South coach Kurt Kiefer. "He'll get in the crowd and make the catch, and he does a lot of things after he catches the ball."

He is probably the main reason there is a bit of optimism surrounding the South football team this season. The Orioles have posted a 1-1 record thus far and have visions of breaking the .500 barrier. Last year, the Orioles went 3-7 after a 0-9 campaign in 1997. Woods and company are talking playoffs this year.

His numbers are modest throughout the first two games. Kiefer figures his lanky receiver has grabbed about 10 passes in the neighborhood of 100 yards. Four of those catches have gone for touchdowns.

Many of those scores have come on what has become a pet play of the Orioles - the alley-oop pass. Quarterback Toby Boyd puts the ball in the direction of Woods and allows him to use his entire 6-4 frame to make the catch. "He comes down with the ball 95 percent of the time," Kiefer said.

Last year, after spending his sophomore season as a quarterback, Woods caught 20 passes.

Woods also does a decent job on defense in the Orioles' 5-3-3 scheme from a cornerback position. "He comes up and hits people. He can stick you," Kiefer said. Kiefer said Woods' presence in the secondary was one of the factors in switching from four defensive backs to three. He could keep more people up around the line of scrimmage to defend the run.

There is a drawback to being this talented. Woods is the focus of a great amount of the opposition's game plan. Kiefer said Woods faces constant double teams.

However, it hasn't totally hindered Woods. Kiefer said two of Woods' touchdowns have come while being triple-teamed. "There were three guys there, they knew we were coming to him, and he just out-jumped them and got it."

Also, while Woods may not be catching a lot of passes, he's still causing problems for opposing defenses.

"He's getting a lot of pass interferences (penalties) called," Kiefer explained. "He's getting by people and they're pulling on him. Those are things that don't add up in the stats."

Woods isn't just one of the more talented football players in the City League this year; he's one of its best athletes. He averaged 17.7 points last season for South's basketball team.

However, Kiefer said, "It's Woods' skills on the gridiron that have drawn the interest of college coaches."

Among the schools that have expressed interest in Woods are: The University of Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Temple, Maryland, Boston College and Syracuse.

"A 6-4 wide receiver is something that doesn't come around all that often," Kiefer explained. "Most receivers are shorter. I think he would be a receiver for somebody. I think he can start right away and be a great college player."

One thing is certain, Woods is already a great high school player. So great, in fact, that Kiefer, who's been on the South coaching staff since 1983, ranks Woods with some of the best players he's seen.

"He's among the top five (players) I've ever seen in the City League," Kiefer said with pride.

That is saying something when you think that this is the league that produced Rutherford, Butler, Marshall and many other greats.

"He would have fit right in with those kids on that Perry squad," Kiefer said.