By Loyd McIntosh, Sports Editor
LEEDS — The Leeds Green Wave looks to extend their undefeated season and playoff run Friday night as they face the Ramsay Rams in the third round of the AHSAA high school football playoffs.
The 2022 edition of the Green Wave is undefeated (11-0, 6-0 in 5A Region 6), is ranked #8 in the state, and has throttled the competition in the first two rounds of the playoffs. However, Leeds Head Coach Jerry Hood says they will have their hands full with a solid Ramsay squad.
“It’ll be a good football game and a good challenge for us as the underdog to try to hang in there with them,” Hood said.
Wait a second. Did Hood actually say Leeds will be the underdog Friday night? “I’ve declared that we are,” Hood said.
Those who have followed Hood’s career at Oak Mountain and Clay-Chalkville know the veteran coach likes to paint his team as the underdog regardless of who the opponent is. In the case of Ramsay, however, he has a point.
The Rams come into the playoff date with Leeds with a record of 10-2, 7-0 in Region 5 action. Their two losses were to Parker, the team that upset Clay-Chalkville in the first round of the playoffs, and to Auburn High School, the second-ranked 7A team in the state.
Additionally, Ramsay is averaging just under 42 points per game while only allowing 15.9 points per contest and has improved considerably since finishing 6-5 last year. They’re also ranked #2 among 5A in the
In other words, Ramsay is a good team.
“They’re a great football team. They’re super athletic. Probably the most athletic team we played for sure,” said Hood. “They’re dynamite. There’s no two ways about it.”
Hood said one of the first things he took notice of the Rams is their speed and the effort they give to second-year coach Ronnie Jackson. Defensively, Hood explains, the Green Wave will need to be prepared for a horse race with the Ram’s speedy skill players that can improvise on the fly.
“I would say it’s going to come down to preventing big plays and being really super-disciplined and understanding their run game, by design, doesn’t always hit where the design of the play goes, because they’re so athletic and their backs are so good,” said Hood. “They just take it wherever they want and outrun a lot of people.”
Defensively, the Green Wave matches up well with the Rams. In 2022, the Leeds defense, led by Arkansas-bound lineman Kavion Henderson, is only averaging 9.9 points per game. Hood also pointed out the contribution of several players on defense, including defensive tackle Chris Burge, linebacker Tucker Summers, and others who have led the Green Wave defense all season long.
“I’ve just been so pleased with our young secondary and how they played,” Hood said. “De’marion Keenan and Zane Hood, our two seniors back there, have really solidified what we like to do on defense.”
Offensively, Leeds is known for a running game that pounds defenses into submission and eats up time off the clock. Led by quarterback Jarod Lotta and Conner Nelson – listed as a quarterback but also contributing as a rusher and receiver – the Green Wave has even more weapons in its arsenal, including running back Jeremiah Hunter. Hunter is averaging 122 yards per game according, to Max Preps, and has broken for several long touchdowns in 2022, including a 52-yard gallop against Fairfield in the first round of the playoffs.
“He’s a big strong kid who knows how we like to play, and has stayed pretty true to himself,” said Hood. “He’s also healthy, and that’s a big deal.”
Now in his fourth year in Leeds, Hood is having his best year as the head coach of the Green Wave. After taking over in 2019 after a 3-8 season in 2018, Hood has led Leeds to three-straight seasons with at least nine wins. Leeds ended the 2021 season with a record 10-2, including a 35-0 loss to Pleasant Grove in the second round of the playoffs. With a trip to the AHSAA Final Four on the line, Hood said the 2022 Green Wave will make the needed adjustments to handle Ramsay but will focus on their strengths this Friday.
“We’re in the third round, the playoffs. We’re not going to change who we are,” said Hood. “We are a team that will do whatever is necessary to move the football down the field and try to score points. That’s the way we look at it.
“If that means we need to play fast at times, then we’ll play fast. If that means we have to throw it, then we’ll throw it,” hood added. “We’ll do whatever we need to do.”
Leeds faces Ramsay Friday, November 18 at Legion Field. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.