ITTA BENA, MISS. — Southern worked during the week hoping Virgil Williams, one of its senior captains and a top cornerback in the Southwestern Athletic Conference, would be healthy enough to play.
However, it was announced Friday he wouldn’t be able to play.
So, Southern turned to junior D’Andre Woodland.
And step up Woodland did.
“I think (Woodland) did an outstanding job,” coach Dawson Odums said. “It’s hard to replace No. 7. He’s valuable. We miss him, and he would make our defense a lot better.”
In replacing the Jaguars’ best defensive player, Woodland compiled six tackles, including two for loss, a pass breakup and a key fumble recovery early in the first quarter.
“Coach Odums always talks about that next man to be ready,” Woodland said. “I got some playing time last year, and I was always ready for when my number would be called. At practice this week, I ran with the first-team defense, and Virgil gave me enough confidence just to come out here and be ready to play.”
“With Virgil out, I just had to step up and play my game.”
Eight minutes into the first quarter, the Delta Devils were facing fourth-and-3 at the Southern 33-yard line.
Valley quarterback Patrick Ivy found running back Patrick Durr in the flat for a 6-yard completion, but Southern linebacker Anthony Balancier stripped Durr of the football, which was subsequently scooped up by Woodland at the 28 and returned 19 yards to the Jaguars’ 47.
Woodland’s big contributions did not end there.
When a Valley drive stalled inside the Jaguars’ 10-yard line, the Delta Devils lined up for what figured to be a chip-shot field goal.
However, Valley coach Karl Morgan called for a fake field-goal attempt.
Woodland would not be fooled and tackled holder Kenneth Dabney for an 11-yard loss at the Southern 24-yard line.
“It’s all about effort,” Woodland said in regard to being in the correct position. “You’ve got to give effort. (Mississippi Valley State) fumbled the ball, and I was right there to pick it up. They attempted a fake field goal, and I was right there with effort. It’s all about effort for our defense. You don’t have to be the best guy out there to give good effort.”
With time winding down at the end of the first half, Ivy dropped back and threw a pass down the sideline to Valley receiver Rashad Pargo.
Woodland was initially beaten but recovered in time to disrupt Pargo from securing the ball.
“We have to come in tomorrow and make corrections on the mistakes we made, but a win is a win,” Woodland said.
“All we have to do is give great effort, and we’ll be a great defense.”
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