Hayfield Head Coach Eric Henderson (Photo: Andy Hilton/recruitNoVA)
Coach Eric Henderson is ready to lead a revival at Hayfield
by Jim McGrath, recruitNoVA
After a three-year run as Gunston District champions, no Hayfield football fan could have been prepared for the events that led to a virtual freefall in 2019.
The Hawks, who had finished 10-2 in 2018, dropped all the way to 1-9 last season. The offense, which had averaged over 39 points per game from 2016-18, saw its production fall to 15.8, while the defense allowed 36.8 points per game.
Yet, a closer examination reveals that the road for Hayfield was going to be uphill, even with a healthy squad. The schedule started with a home opener against 2018 state final participant Freedom, and followed with seven consecutive games against teams that would make the Class 6 playoffs in 2019. The Freedom game was followed by a contest against eventual state champion South County, and then Lake Braddock, Robinson, Yorktown, Chantilly, T.C. Williams, and Mount Vernon, making eight teams that finished the season with a combined record of 81-18.
The toughest loss may have come in Week 5. The Hawks not only dropped a 28-21 decision to Yorktown, but they also lost their main two-way threat when Scott Woods went down with an injury.
Here’s how Woods, who was playing running back, described the play.
“(It) happened in the first quarter, on the 25-yard line. We ran a halfback dive up the middle, and the opposing defensive tackle came up the middle and hit me, but I didn’t go down. I was pushing forward with him dragging behind until he sat down on my foot, which caused it to tear.” Later, it was learned that Woods had torn his MCL.
At the time, according to Hayfield coach Eric Henderson, Woods had compiled more than 400 yards of rushing, and an additional 400 yards of receiving in just over four games. Instead of gaining momentum with a possible upset over an undefeated team against Yorktown, the Hawks responded with blowout losses in the next three games before stunning Annandale 30-7 in Week 9. Quarterback Chase Soper (1344 yards passing, 759 rushing, 20 TD’s in 2019) held the offense together, but there is little question that losing Woods, who had led the Hawks in receiving (38 receptions, 686 yards, 7 TD) in 2018, was especially tough.
“It was very hard losing Scott,” said Soper, who rushed for 253 yards with five touchdowns in the season finale against West Potomac. “He was our only returning receiver. We had lots of injuries and young players.”
“Without him, we were very limited,” added Henderson.
The pain in Woods’ psyche almost matched the pain in his ankle. “It hurt a lot to see my team struggling and not being able to do anything about it,” said the junior, who also plays slot receiver and defensive back for Hayfield.
Fortunately, for the swift (4.4 in 40) back, his recovery has been going well.
“It has been three months since my injury, and I’m back to jumping and jogging and weight lifting, but I’m not at 100 percent yet.”
This could be good news for his future college coaches, and especially for his current coach. “Scott started out small, but has grown from 5-6 to 5-8 1/2, and another inch in two months. We’re hoping that he’ll get to 5-10,” said Henderson, who also predicted that his ace runner will “combine well.”
His speed is without question, having been one of the top-five times at last spring’s recruit757/Sparta Science camp. “He is as fast as he needs to be,” said Henderson of Woods, who ran for the Spartan Chosen team and was an AAU age-group national qualifier in the 100-meter dash last summer. “He runs great routes and possesses football speed.”
Before the injury, Woods had heard from coaches at Wake Forest, Georgetown, and Duke. While Woods admits that the two-way communication has slowed, he is using it for motivation. “It has motivated me to the highest capacity, and is making me a better worker.”
Adds Henderson, “He will come back with a lot to prove, and have an explosive senior season.”
Henderson is realistic, but optimistic about the future of his team. “Every team has ebbs and flows in its talent base. We were competitive last year, but we will return eight starters on defense, as well as seven on offense. The nice part is that they all come back, which is exciting because they are devastating kids.”
However, they will lose Soper, who led the Hawks in passing and rushing for the past two seasons. He will make his college commitment and sign on February 5th. Among his Division I suitors are James Madison, New Hampshire, Cornell, VMI, Davidson, and Valparaiso.
Woods, who sports a 4.2 grade point average, will hear from other high-level academic schools as his recruitment process reboots, but the junior adds another dimension to his student-athlete resume, with the title of published author.
“I wrote a chapter of a book for Jack and Jill of America,” said Woods. “It’s called Why I Matter?”
– Jim McGrath