E.A. Sports Today

Opening act

Woodruff rushes for 123 yards and the game’s first three touchdowns as Alexandria wins its second opener since 2008 with a shutout

Alexandria senior Keenan Woodruff (20) broke out for three touchdowns in the first 15 minutes of the Cubs’ season-opener against Talladega. (Photos by B.J. Franklin)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

The emotion inside the Alexandria dressing room was a whole lot different Friday night than it was after their season opener last year.

Players were moving between stalls, laughing and carrying on with teammates. A staffer was standing in the back of the room with arms raised trying to capture the whole scene on his cell phone.

Winning is really fun.

The fifth-ranked Valley Cubs won their season opener for the first time since 2015 and only the second time since 2008 Friday when they blanked Talladega 37-0 at Lou Scales Stadium to spoil the debut of Tigers coach Ted Darby.

“Any time you win it’s better everywhere,” Cubs coach Frank Tucker said. “We wanted to come out of the gate a little bit quicker. We didn’t want to play a bad first game and get beat. We just want to win that first one. My quarter pounder with cheese is going to taste better tonight.”

The Cubs last won their opener two years ago when they beat Jacksonville 46-14. Before that it was 2008 when they blanked Anniston 9-0. After opening the season with a loss last year (actually 0-2), the Valley Cubs missed the playoffs for only the second time in the previous 14 years.

“Starting out last year with an L and starting out this year with a W is going to have a big ol’ difference,” senior running back Kennan Woodruff said.

They pulled this one off with a balanced and punishing running attack and stout defense.

Everyone is looking for Woodruff to have a return to his sophomore form and Friday was a good start. He scored three touchdowns in the first 15 minutes of the game and rushed for 123 yards. He had a 50-yard touchdown run and another 19-yard gain erased by penalties. Grayson Chaffin ran alongside him and rushed for 100 yards and a score.

Woodruff rushed for 2,000 yards as a sophomore and big things were expected of him as a junior. But an ankle injury limited his effectiveness last year and he’s eager to make up for it.

“The difference between this year and last year, this year I’m coming at it as I just want to walk off the field knowing I gave it my best, come off with a W, everybody do their jobs,” he said. “Basically don’t worry about all that extra – yards, touchdowns and all that – just want the best for everybody in general.

“Last year I’m not saying I came into the game thinking about yards and stuff, but I probably wasn’t as prepared for the season like I am this year. I think I learned more from it. I want it better this year.”

“We just want Keenan to be Keenan,” Tucker said. “He’s hungry because of the injury last year. That hurts a competitor to be out with an injury, but like we said, we just want Keenan to be Keenan. He’s a good running back, but the one thing that helps him so much is we have some other backs so he doesn’t have to carry it 30 times.”

The Valley Cubs rushed for 351 yards as a team in the game, 222 in the first half. Woodruff went 7 yards with the first play of the Cubs’ season and continued to pour it on. He scored on runs of 11, 9 and 20 yards as the Cubs opened a 22-0 lead three minutes into the second quarter. Woodruff ran

“They smashed us up front,” Darby said. “What we needed was to put all 22 out there. We didn’t tackle well and if you don’t tackle an Alexandria team well … they just did what they wanted to do.”

Talladega, meanwhile, started freshman Nigel Scales at quarterback because senior Ashton Duncan had a sore ankle and out from under center he could used in multiple situations. But when Scales appeared to hurt his shin on a run late in the first half Duncan was back at quarterback and with his veteran presence the Tigers were actually able to mount a little offense.

“We’ve got to find our identity; we still don’t know our identity,” Darby said. “When you build a program that’s what you’ve got to do. We’re taking baby steps and we’re playing a great football team, TCC, coming up, so we’ve got to go back to the drawing board and fix some things.”

Skylar Payne (67) moves Talladega’s Fred Dickerson out of the way to give Keenan Woodruff more room to work.

[table id=50 /]

Talladega (0-1) 0 0 0 0 — 0
Alexandria (1-0) 14 8 8 7 — 37

A – Keenan Woodruff 20 run (Grayson Chaffin pass from Jacob Wells), 5:16 1Q
A – Keenan Woodruff 9 run (pass failed), 1:20 1Q
A – Keenan Woodruff 9 run (Grayson Chaffin pass from Jacob Wells), 9:08 2Q
A – Grayson Chaffin 11 run (Sam Shaw pass from Jacob Wells), 7:44 3Q
A – Nate McCallum 13 run (Trey Primm kick), 7:10 4Q

Alexandria’s Seth Smitherman (39) chases down Talladega’s Jermontez Cunningham on a play that went for no gain in the first quarter Friday.

To see a gallery of B.J. Franklin photos from the game visit www.bjfranklin.smugmug.com and click on the football file.

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