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East Hall graduate Watson seizes opportunity to shine at collegiate level
East Hall graduate Devin Watson lines up at corner for the Wofford Terriers. - photo by Trent Brock

In the moment his team needed somebody to step up and make a play, Devin Watson was there.

The Wofford Terriers were holding on to a 15-14 lead over Charleston Southern in the first round of the FCS playoffs and the Buccaneers were driving. On first-and-10 from the Wofford 35, Charleston Southern quarterback Shane Bucenell fired the ball toward one of his receivers, but Watson stepped in and returned the interception 47 yards, allowing the Terriers to kneel on the ball and kill the clock.

“I just knew we had to get it done, so I brought myself to make a play,” Watson said. “I saw they were throwing the ball and, if they were going to do that, it was going to be a quick pass, nothing downfield. I knew it was going to be something quick so I jumped on it and he threw the ball right to me.”

Watson also had an interception on the Buccaneers’ first drive of the fourth quarter, intercepting a first-and-20 pass from the Wofford 37. The two interceptions were the first of the season for Watson.

For the sophomore cornerback, it was a big deal to get them against the Buccaneers.

“That meant a lot,” Watson said. “I know I didn’t get any during the season, but getting them when it mattered, it made me feel like I made a big difference in the game.”

The East Hall graduate is in his first year playing corner for the Terriers after arriving on campus as a safety.

“From safety to corner, it’s bigger responsibility,” Watson said. “you’ve got a whole side to cover, you have to run with people, it’s a whole lot of open field plays and I just feel like it’s one of the harder positions on the field.”

This season he’s amassed 41 total tackles, two tackles for loss, nine pass break-ups and the two intercpetions. Watson had eight tackles against Western Carolina, seven against Mercer and six against Charleston Southern. One of his tackles for loss came in the playoff win.

Watson said his big performance and confidence to make the game-saving catch came from his teammates, especially after getting scored on earlier in the contest.

“My teammates have confidence in me here,” Watson said. “They knew I could make plays like that. They just lifted me up and helped me keep my confidence.”

Next up, the Terriers will be trying to knock off The Citadel, a familiar opponent for Wofford.

The two met earlier this season, which ended in a 27-24 overtime loss for the Terriers.

Wofford held The Citadel to a field goal in its possession of overtime. Then the Terriers proceded to fumble their chance away.

“Knowing we fell short, we just know we need to bring it and be better than last time because last time wasn’t good enough,” Watson said. “We have to play like we did last time, but play a little faster and a little more physical. We need to bring more just like we know they’re going to bring more.”

Watson said having a “gritty” first-round game showed his team how hard it’s going to be to get through the playoffs and into the national championship. Still, the Terriers are going in with confidence.

“The fact that Charleston Southern beat Citadel twice last year boosted our confidence,” Watson said. “To beat them just gives us more juice to know we can contend for a national championship.”

With a win over the Bulldogs, Wofford would make it into the quarterfinals — a place the program has never ventured before. Watson said it would mean a lot to be able to make it to that next level.

“I came to a small school like this to change the culture, make plays and get a group of guys to play at a higher level and get rings. That’s where we want to be,” Watson said.

Watson, who wears the No. 24 jersey, said he reps the number because of his former East Hall teammate Carlos Salazar. Salazar, who drowned the summer before the two were set to begin their senior seasons for the Vikings, donned the number for East Hall.

“He kept me on track. He was really religious. He kept my walk with God on the straight and narrow,” Watson said. “When I was down, he was there for me. I took that for granted. He kept everybody up and walked around with a smile on his face. He was the guy to be around.”

As Watson and the Terriers head into their second-round matchup Saturday, the sophomore said he doesn’t want to forget who he’s playing for.

“I just want to thank God for this opportunity and putting me here. I wish Carlos could be here,” Watson said. “But I’m also putting on for the city of Gainesville.”

Wofford (9-3) and The Citadel (10-1) will kick off at 6 p.m. Saturday at Johnson Hagood Stadium in Charleston, S.C. The game can be found on ESPN3.