They had just lost a 45-24 decision to a West Deptford football team that looks like it has no intention of relinquishing last year’s South Jersey Group 2 title and Woodbury was far from deflated.
Sure, the Thundering Herd wanted to win, but they knew they were beaten by a truly talented team with more depth.
So Woodbury saw positives in defeat.
“We lost to a really good West Deptford team and we’re not going to face a better team,” Woodbury quarterback-defensive back Anthony Averett said. “I think we will be a contender in Group 1.”
He should know.
As a freshman, Averett was a starting running back and defensive back on a Woodbury team that captured the Group 1 crown.
What was impressive about Woodbury is that the Herd could have wilted, especially after West Deptford jumped to a 14-0 lead.
Woodbury got a break when Mark Jenkins picked up a teammate’s fumble and rumbled 60 yards for a score. After Averett’s two-point conversion run it was 14-8 and before the Herd could blink, Shai Mumford returned the ensuing kickoff back 88 yards.
So Woodbury was in a 21-8 hole, but get digging and Averett would hit Dwaun Martin with a 10-yard scoring pass and then Averett, who was eluding tackles all night, did it again in earning the two-point conversion.
West Deptford led 24-16 at the half and when Josh Cornelius scored on a 45-yard run early in the third quarter, it again looked like the knockout punch.
Then Woodbury took a page out of the resourceful playbook. The Herd faced a fourth-and-11 from the West Deptford 32-yard line and had Averett leave the game due to cramps. So sophomore Daevon Ayers came in at quarterback and found Jenkins in the end zone with the 32-yard TD. Jenkins caught a tipped pass so he was liking a charmed live in this game.
After Ayers hit Ty Brown for the two-point conversion, the lead was cut to 31-24 with 2:49 left in the third quarter.
Finally West Deptford earned some breathing room on a 31-yard Cornelius TD run late in the third quarter. Gerald Owens (22 carries, 192 yards, 3 TDs) ended the scoring with a 15-yard fourth quarter run. Cornelius added 120 yards and two touchdowns on only nine carries.
As for Woodbury, Averett, who would return after the cramps, didn’t put up eye-popping stats. He rushed for 66 yards on 16 carries and completed 5 of 8 passes for 82 yards and one TD.
Yet he continued to keep plays alive and kept coming back after taking some big hits. No wonder he is a University of Alabama recruit. His combination of athletic ability, toughness and a high football IQ, no doubt interested the defending college national champions.
No wonder West Deptford coach Clyde Folsom, who earned his 200th career win, called Averett the best player in South Jersey.
In Averett, senior Dwaun Martin and junior Jeray Denby, Woodbury has great explosiveness. The key is going to be to remain healthy because there isn’t a lot of depth.
“We’re good,” said Woodbury coach Zack Valentine. “We ran up against a team that right now is a little better but I think we will continue to improve.”
In two weeks Woodbury meets Paulsboro, a game that most likely will determine the Colonial Conference Patriot Division champion. Paulsboro will be an expected contender in Group 1, as will defending champion Glassboro, Penns Grove (which beat Glassboro last week), Pennsville and possibly Gloucester, just to name a few.
Woodbury will also be in the thick of things. One has to look beyond the score of their West Deptford game to see how impressive the Thundering Herd truly are.