It was around the third quarter of Jefferson’s regular-season finale against Hart County when Colby Wood heard the news.
Wood, a rising junior, had just broken the school’s single-season rushing record of 1,964 yards, breaking a 65-year old mark, according to a voice high up in the school’s press box.
Wood had no time to dwell on records or his individual accomplishments: He had a game to finish.
“I really didn’t know that I was going to break it,” said Wood, The Times Area Football Player of the Year. “But the announcer came out and said that it was, and I didn’t want to lose focus. Coming off last week, we had lost in double overtime against Oconee County, and this was a big game. But I think I had a little smirk going on.”
Considering Wood’s breakout year, no one could begrudge him that. The running back totaled 2,119 rushing yards and 33 touchdowns in his second year with the Dragons, leading Jefferson (10-2 in 2015) to a second-round playoff berth.
Playing double duty as a defensive back, Wood averaged 27 carries a game to account for more than half of the total offensive yards his team produced in the entire year.
Jefferson coach Ben Hall said he wasn’t surprised to see his young talent have success, citing his vision and situational awareness. Having lost a number of key players at skill positions the previous summer, Hall said there was uncertainty about whether Wood could immediately contribute.
“He was born with natural ability in those areas,” said Hall. “We knew going into the season that he was going to be called on regularly. We were so young at receivers, we had a new player in at quarterback, but we were solid on the line of scrimmage, so from a percentage standpoint, we were going to run more.”
Wood shone over the offseason, and by the time Jefferson kicked off in its first regular-season game, the sophomore was being called to tote the rock each and every week while featuring at corner.
In the Dragons’ home opener against Rabun County, Wood totaled 33 carries in a 50-14 victory, then spent most of the following morning lying in bed to ease his weary legs.
“I had to ice down the whole weekend,” said Wood.
Wood accounted for three touchdowns and nearly 250 yards against Hart County when he topped Jefferson’s single-season record, which was set by Curtis Segars in 1950.
Since then, Wood said he’s heard congratulations and kind words from Jefferson fans all across the community, from restaurants to grocery stores. Wood said Saturday that was grateful for his supporters, and that he was looking to score more touchdowns if it helps the Dragons earn a state championship ring.
Jefferson last won a state title in 2012.
“The first thing I do is I pray every night that God watches over me on the field, to keep me injury-free,” said Wood of the responsibility he carries with the offense. “I’ll go home after games on Friday nights, do a lot of stretching, keep healthy.”
These days, Wood plays for Jefferson’s basketball team in order to keep fit over the offseason. He’s hoping to add about 5-10 pounds of muscle so that he can create a little more explosiveness in his ability to break tackles.
Jefferson will retain the majority of the starters on its offensive line in 2016, which should only help Wood continue his standout career.
He was named as the Class AAA Offensive Player of the Year by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and was included in the USA Today All-Georgia second Team.
He recently took a trip to the University of Tennessee, and said he’s getting constant emails and letters from prospective schools and camps.
“If he continues to develop like we think he will,” said Hall, “his future is very bright.”