Published 12:00 am Friday, August 15, 2008
NWCC Office of Sports Information
Ricky Woods is no stranger to winning.
Neither is the Northwest Mississippi Community College football program.
Maybe that’s why so many Ranger fans are excited about the 2008 season which begins Thursday, Aug. 28 when Northwest hosts defending NJCAA co-National Champion Gulf Coast at Bobby Franklin Field in Senatobia.
Woods took over the reins of the Rangers in December and hasn’t stopped searching for the right formula to get Northwest back on top of the heap in Mississippi and the nation.
Over the last three years, Northwest has compiled a record of 13-14 with two playoff appearances. On both occasions, the Rangers failed to advance past the first round of the playoffs.
Woods, who owns a record of 213-43 in 26 seasons as a high school coach, is one of the winning coaches in the history of Mississippi. Woods has led four different schools to six state championships and hopes to work his magic at Northwest. Woods is best known for his five seasons at South Panola High when he led the Tigers to a record of 74-1 and four consecutive Class 5A state championships from 2003 through 2006. Woods was the head coach last season at Bainbridge High School in Georgia.
“I’m real proud to be back in Mississippi, especially north Mississippi,” said Woods. “I really like the people here.”
Sixteen players return for the Rangers this season, including nine starters. Northwest also has four transfers from major universities in the mix to provide experience.
Key returnees for the Rangers on offense include offensive guard Kevin Gehrke of Olive Branch and receivers Roderick Jefferson of Batesville and Alfonzo Buford of Clarksdale.
Gehrke was one of Northwest’s most consistent linemen in 2007. Buford led Ranger receivers as a freshman with 19 catches for 264 yards and one touchdown, while Jefferson had 12 receptions for 189 yards.
On defense, Northwest is stocked with talent from a unit that ranked second in the state last season.
Returning defensive players include free safety Desman Ivy and linebacker Ricky Wadlington, both of Oxford, linebackers DeShagdrick Biggins of Charleston and Thomas Majors of Nashville, Tenn., and strong safety Leroy Diggs of Batesville.
Majors finished second on the team as a freshman with 93 tackles, while Wadlington had 55, and Ivy 51. Biggins was credited with four sacks, while Diggs collected 29 tackles.
Defensive ends Chris Strong of Batesville, a transfer from the University of Mississippi, and Korey Reynolds of Birmingham, Ala., a transfer from the University of Hawaii, will definitely bolster the Northwest defense. As will the additions of linebackers Corderick Govan of Charleston, from the University of Memphis, and Chris Clinton of Lakeland Fla., from the University of Maryland.
“We have a good group of kids on both sides of the ball,” added Woods. “Things are going well and the guys are starting to come on.”
The schedule makers didn’t do Woods and the Rangers any favors this fall. Northwest, who received votes in the NJCAA pre-season football poll, will face three ranked teams in the first four weeks including No. 3 Gulf Coast, No. 13 Pearl River, and No. 20 Itawamba.