WOODLAND -- Third down and goal at the 1-yard line.
That’s how close Woodland High came to the Class 2A semifinals in 2012 -- one yard and one extra man. Reeltown had 12 men on the field, which was never caught because an altercation behind the fence distracted officials.
Then came the false-start penalty and, ultimately, the interception on the game’s final play, sending Reeltown on to the semifinals, 30-24.
It’s the kind of thing that sticks with a team for an entire offseason and has with Woodland.
“It’s a lot (of motivation), especially when we do our workouts and stuff,” senior quarterback John Wes Adcock said.
Add that kind of motivation to a team that lost only three starters, and the formula exists for one of those special seasons, the kind that Woodland had with state-runner-up finishes in 2004 and 2006.
Coach Larry Strain, entering his 15th season at Woodland and needing just six victories to reach 100, said he sees similarities between the 2013 Woodland team and the 2006 team.
“Not meaning that this team is as good or no means that they’re going to make it that distance, or back to the state championship game,” Strain said. “But they’ve been in our program. They’ve all started. There’s nothing really new to them, and it puts them that much farther ahead in practice.
“It’s really the first time … that I have put three classes together in a row that are huge classes.”
Woodland, ranked No. 10 in 2A in the ASWA preseason poll, has 13 seniors (up from six each of the past two years), 11 juniors and 14 sophomores.
The Bobcats did lose quality, if not quantity, from a team that went 10-3 and won Class 2A, Region 6 in 2012. They lost linemen Al Davis and Christian Burroughs and running back Mikey Howard, who rushed for 1,417 yards and 18 touchdowns despite missing two games with an infection.
Then again, Woodland gets back two players who didn’t play in 2012. Receiver/safety Kendall Hudson sat out with a knee injury, and offensive tackle/defensive end Devonta Maffett was ineligible.
Also, Howard missing those games helped this year’s team.
“I think that kind of really helped us grow as a team and not just depend on Mikey to be what he was,” Adcock said. “He was a great athlete and really helped us on the field. He was there when you needed him, kind of the go-to guy, but, with or without him, we could make progress on offense.”
Without that clear go-to guy, Strain hopes to parlay Adcock’s second full season as a starter into a more multiple look. Adcock threw for 1,377 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2012.
“Plus, I’ve got so many other skill people that I have not had in the past,” Strain said. “So, I feel like now, we’re not going to be giving the ball to the H-back all the time. It’s probably where a lot of people are going to get to touch it.”
So, Woodland comes into 2013 more experienced and less predictable. This less than a year after the Bobcats advanced farther than any other Star-area team in the playoffs.
They’ll still have to fight through a region that includes Wellborn, Fultondale, Vincent and Ranburne. Woodland’s Oct. 12 game at fourth-ranked Wellborn looms large.
But Strain is a proven winner. He took Woodland to the 2A state final in 2004 and 2006, losing twice to Leroy by a combined eight points.
“I am by no means onverconfident,” Strain said. “I by no means fell like it’s going to be a cake walk. I’m not thinking it’s going to be a given.
“But sure, we’re excited about this season, and we think that we’ve got promise, and we think that we’ve got an opportunity to make a run.”
Sports Columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter @jmedley_star..
Woodland at a glance
Head coach: Larry Strain (94-73 in 14 seasons, all at Woodland).
Last year’s record: 10-3, including 6-1 and first-place finish in Class 2A, Region 6. Lost in quarterfinals of the state playoffs at Reeltown.
Outlook: Woodland lost three starters, including 1,600-yard running back Mikey Howard, but returns the rest. The Bobcats also get back two good players who sat out 2012, one with an injury and one because of eligibility. Look for Woodland to be more multiple on offense this year, especially now that quarterback John Wes Adcock has a year under his belt as the starter. This team came a yard away from the 2A semifinals a year ago and looks to make a deep run this year.
Woodland's 2013 schedule
Aug. 23 at White Plains (jamboree)
Aug. 30 at Bowdon, Ga.
Sept. 6 at Victory Christian
Sept. 13 vs. Fultondale
Sept. 20 at Ohatchee
Sept. 27 vs. Randolph County
Oct. 4 vs. Ranburne
Oct. 11 at Wellborn
Oct. 18 vs. Pleasant Valley
Oct. 25 at Vincent
Nov. 1 vs. Cleburne County