He’s the type of player that every team needs.
A guy who is not afraid to head into the fray, stir things up in the trenches, and say what needs to be said when the moment calls for it.
Noach Wood has been a standout along the Golden Tornado defensive line all season long. His ability to eat up and spit out blockers seems to improve each week, and the junior nose guard is just getting started.
“He’s the rock of that defense,” said Santa Barbara quarterback Deacon Hill. “He’s always that steady guy that when you need a play, he’ll get in there and make it.”
Whether it’s a big sack on a third down play to force the opposition to punt the ball away, or a tackle for a loss to put the offense in a bad spot – Wood always seems to make the plays at the right time.
He took over in the Big Game against San Marcos, recording three sacks and making things difficult for the Royals offense throughout the game. His presence along the defensive front helped Santa Barbara limit Palm Desert’s Simon Gaete to only 89 rushing yards – the second time the explosive back was held under 100 yards this season. While he has made plenty of big stops and clutch tackles, his motor up front has also opened things up for his teammates.
“If they double him, great – that means he’s taking two guys away,” coach J.T. Stone said. “Either way, he’s going to give us effort. At times he’s the biggest decoy, which is great. That means somebody else gets to do work.”
Middle linebacker Johnny Valencia said that Santa Barbara is lucky to have a guy like Wood on its side.
“He just causes havoc in the backfield,” Valencia said. “He’s just a great guy to play with. He always has a great attitude and he’s always on top of us. He knows what he wants – he wants that ring and he just knows its business.”
The scariest part for the opposition? Wood has been nursing hip and shoulder injuries that have limited him – though you wouldn’t be able to tell once the lights come on every Friday night.
He wasn’t always such a dominant force, however. Wood started playing football as a fifth grader and took his lumps early on.
“I was trash,” he said. “I was the big fat guy and I always had to cut weight to stay on the team.”
By the time he got to middle school, Wood had slimmed down and moved to tight end and receiver – though he says he doesn’t miss playing on the offensive side of the ball.
“Not at all,” he said. “I don’t like it and I don’t feel like I’m reliable enough (as a pass catcher).”
Like many of his players, Stone recognized early on that Wood could be a primetime player.
“He was the type of kid that when got to high school, the defense was going to run behind him,” Stone said. “It was just a matter of time.
“When it was his time as a sophomore, he came in and did tremendous work and we knew that as a junior this was really going to be his year. It’s just what is expected. This was a long time coming.”
Both Stone and Hill have said that Wood is a handful to go up against each week in practice. His constant movement and never-ending motor to the ball is evident week in and week out. Although he has frustrated his QB in the lead up to the game, the two have a long-standing friendship that has been influential for the whole team.
“Those two grew up together and were best friends,” Stone said. “They’ve played football together and they’ve done everything together. They’ve talked about this moment. It’s just so natural for them. When it was their time…we knew as a staff the type of kids we had to lead this football team and that carries weight when you have accountability.
“It puts us in the driver’s seat because our leadership has improved dramatically.”
Wood is never shy to speak his mind. When a player is on the sideline with his helmet off during practice, the 6-foot, 260 pound lineman is quick to address it.
“He’s a very vocal captain,” Hill said. “He’s not afraid to say something. He’s the guy who keeps everyone in check. He’s the enforcer of the team.
“He’s like the Shaq of football.”
Leadership hasn’t always come naturally for Wood. During his sophomore season, Stone made it a point to tell his team that he was looking for leaders.
“I guess I kind of picked that up and ran with it,” Wood said. “I started taking it on as my responsibility to get everything going.”
As the team has experienced success, Santa Barbara alumni are taking notice. During the Dons basketball game Monday night, Wood said that two alumni approached him and told him to “keep doing what you’re doing.”
After the team’s 42-32 win in Palm Desert last week, a member of the Class of 1987 approached him and said he flew in from Arizona to watch the team.
“He recognized me and I thought that was so cool,” Wood said.