While most of his all-star teammates chatted on the bench over water and Gatorade, State College’s Noah Woods tip-toed as close as possible to the field of play and rarely took off his maroon helmet.
He meant business.
In the final high school football game of his career — Sunday’s PSFCA East-West All-Star Game — Woods didn’t want to hold anything back. So he remained focused, waited to hear his number and didn’t peel off his helmet until 3 minutes left in regulation. By then, his determined demeanor had already frustrated his opponents.
The State College wideout finished as the West MVP in his team’s 17-14 victory, and officials at Mansion Park believed he was the first Little Lion to ever earn the award. It wasn’t a difficult choice. Woods — who was joined on the West by State College teammates Kam’Ron Walker and Will Swope — finished the all-star game with three catches for 90 yards and two runs for 12 yards.
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He was the only player on either team with 100 rushing/receiving yards. No one else finished with more than 79.
“Sometimes it’s your night, and sometimes it’s not,” Woods said, moments after posing for photos with his MVP plaque. “And I think today was definitely my day.”
When some in the crowd yelled at the West team Sunday to clamp down on defense, some of Woods’ teammates playfully shot back, “They can’t block us; they can only hold!” Woods remained quiet. When the sideline erupted after a big play by Woods, the senior wideout would just toss the ball to an official and quietly jog back to the huddle. Walker, Woods’ teammate at State College, was usually leading the celebratory charge by pulling an imaginary train whistle whenever the PA system echoed the receiver’s name.
“That’s my boy,” Walker said after the game. “Seeing him do big stuff like that, that makes me hype.”
Woods said he would’ve never believed, before the game, that he’d earn MVP honors — especially by touching the ball just five times in 48 minutes. But he made nearly every touch count.
In the first half, he adjusted to reel in an underthrown pass for a 37-yard gain that was just 2 yards shy of the end zone. In the third quarter, he kept one drive alive by drawing a pass-interference call and then made a clutch 14-yard reception that set up the go-ahead field goal. And, in the final quarter, he caught a 39-yard bomb despite being nearly in lock-step with the cornerback.
On two of those long gains, Woods went up against Tre McNeill — a DB that had a one-inch, 20-pound advantage over the receiver. McNeill went on to accept the East MVP award with a scowl.
“We liked a couple match-ups against their guys, where we thought (Woods) could do some damage,” said West receivers coach T.J. Plack, the head coach at District 7’s Peters Township. “He’s a burner. We knew he had speed coming in and, with our one-on-ones and everything we did, he was a deep threat.”
Added Swope, another one of Woods’ State College teammates: “I don’t know how he does it. He just shows up and does amazing things.”
Woods will next take his talents to Slippery Rock, where he’ll see McNeill again in the Division II PSAC. McNeill’s Gannon team is actually in the same division as SRU. But Woods wasn’t thinking about that next step just yet, at least not on Sunday.
His voice cracked slightly when reflecting on the fact this was his last high school game. But he couldn’t help but smile at finishing on top. He couldn’t have asked for much more Sunday.
“I don’t surprise myself too often,” Woods said. “When I make plays, I’ll just pop up and think I should’ve done better. You have to have a short memory.”
But, on Sunday, this seemed like it would stay with Woods for a while. After some thought, he grinned when asked his thoughts about putting a new MVP plaque in his trophy case.
“I’m pretty surprised.”
Kam’Ron Walker & Will Swope
Noah Woods was the West MVP on Sunday, but he wasn’t the only State College player who had a memorable day. Two of his Little Lions teammates, Kam’Ron Walker and Will Swope, both joined him on the West team — and both also fared pretty well.
Walker, a defensive lineman, posted one tackle-for-loss Sunday to go along with three quarterback hurries. The East offense didn’t record a single first down, outside of penalty yardage, until the third quarter as the West defense dominated for most of the game.
“It feels amazing because it’s been awhile,” Walker said, referring to not playing football for so long. “There’s nothing you can really do after the season, like lift with the team, so to play with my boys right here feels amazing.”
Swope, an offensive tackle, said he was a little tired after not going to sleep until 4 a.m. because of prom. But, overall, he was still satisfied with his team’s performance.
“I think I did all right,” he added.
Coach says ...
State College coach Matt Lintal was on-hand for Sunday’s all-star game. He wasn’t part of the West’s coaching staff, but he was still on the sideline to support his Little Lions.
Here’s what he had to say about each player’s performance:
Kam’Ron Walker: “Kam played hard. His back’s been bugging him, so to see him come out and have some success, you can just see him and hear him interact with his teammates in such a positive way.”
Noah Woods: “Noah is just very laid-back in everything he does. But when the ball is snapped, he goes 100 mph — so it’s great to see him have the same type of success he had for us on Friday nights here, with this level of competition. It’s tremendous and a tribute to him.”
Will Swope: “Will Swope did a great job. There are some really talented defensive ends out there, and he did a real good job protecting the quarterback. I’m really proud of everything he’s accomplished — in every realm of being a student-athlete.”
How the game was won
Although the West won the game by a score of 17-14, it was hardly as close as the score indicated. The West often marched into the red zone, only to see a fumble or sack or miscue lead to a wasted opportunity. The East didn’t even record a first down, outside of penalty yardage, until the third quarter.
And the East’s final TD came with about a minute left in the game; the West locked up the game after recovering the onside kick.
Here’s the scoring summary:
West: Darius Wise 16 yd pass from Isaiah Hankins, (Jordan Washington PAT)
East: Tre McNeill recovered fumble in end zone, (Amor Barney PAT)
West: Washington 31-yd field goal
West: Wise 29 yd pass from Brycen Mussina (Washington PAT)
East: Amadou Barry 33 yd pass from Stephen Sturm (Barney PAT)
Rushing - East: Khari Jones 5-16, Shawn Thompson 7-22, Storm 3-7, Barry 1-(-21), Tyshaun Pollard 1-3. West: Hankins 5-21, Quinton Hill 9-32, Wise 2-(-13), Elliot Walker Jr. 2-18, Noreaga Goff 1-1, Mussina 1-(-15), Noah Woods 2-12, Team 3-(-20).
Passing - East: Zach Gilbert 5-of-18, 14 yards, Sturm 5-of-14, 95 yards, one touchdown. West - Hankins 6-of-13 100 yards, one touchdown, one interception, Mussina 6-of-14, 117 yards, one touchdown, one interception.
Receiving - East: Jullian Liaci 1-16, Nick Vasger 1-11, Barry 2-35, Mari Wright 1-1, Stone Scarcelle 2-0, Thomas Murphy 1-23, Thompson 1-(-8), Pollard 1-26. West: Jon Muehlbauer 5-79, Walker Jr. 1-9, Wise 3-49, Woods 3-90.
Interceptions - East: McNeill, Trael Seegars.
Kickoffs Returns - East: Thompson 1-22, Jones 1-14, Richard Carr 2-33. West: Wise 2-37, Team 1-0.
Punt Returns - East: Liaci 1-11. West: Walker Jr. 1-0, Derrick Caraway 1-0, Goff 1-6.
Fumble Recoveries - East: McNeill. West: Caraway.
Field Goals - East: Barney 49 yards - Blocked. West: Washington 33 yards - Blocked, 31 yards - Good.