Woods Ray slowly left Saraland High School’s stadium and headed straight to Atlanta to catch a flight to New Hampshire and a recruiting visit to Dartmouth College.
The Homewood senior had just wrapped up his high school football career with one of the most memorable performances in the school’s long playoff history. His last game was inches from victory when he was stopped in extra time in a 57-56 loss to Saraland, but that didn’t make the performance any less remarkable.
“They brought the house,” Ray said of the last bit. “I was probably an inch too small. It’s just tough. Football is a game of centimeters and I was so close. It’s going to be tough to get through, but I’m grateful to be able to play this game.”
Homewood trailed 27-0 in the first quarter and continued to struggle to stop the explosive Saraland offensive thereafter. But Ray led the Patriots to touchdowns on their last seven possessions, eventually pulling through even in regulation’s final game.
Ray’s night totaled 470 yards. He passed 295 yards and rushed for another 175. He completed 32 of 48 passes and accounted for 52 of the Patriots’ 56 points with five touchdown passes, three rushing touchdowns and two two-point conversion passes.
“You salute Homewood and you salute their quarterback,” said Saraland coach Jeff Kelly, himself a former NFL quarterback. “He kept bringing his team back and they kept playing. They had us on the ropes but we scored some big points late in the game there.
Here’s a drive chart for Homewood’s 11 offensive possessions:
2 games that resulted in a fumble returned for a touchdown.
7 plays leading to a punt.
3 plays leading to a punt.
11 plays, 61 yards, 5:00 a.m. after the clock, resulting in a 2-yard touchdown pass to Jackson Parris.
8 plays, 75 yards, 1:14 behind the clock, leading to a 4-yard touchdown run from Ray.
9 plays, 64 yards, 2:40 a.m. pacing, resulting in an 8-yard touchdown pass for Parris.
10 plays, 67 yards, 4:05 off the clock, resulting in a 7-yard touchdown pass for Charlie Reeves.
11 plays, 80 yards, 8:37 a.m. pacing, resulting in a 1-yard touchdown run from Ray.
9 plays, 74 yards, 1:49 behind the clock, resulting in a 4-yard touchdown pass for Reeves.
4 plays, 82 yards, 34 minutes by the clock, resulting in a 41-yard touchdown pass for Parris on the last regular play.
3 plays, 10 yards in overtime, resulting in a 3-yard touchdown run by Ray.
“Our quarterback is incredible,” said Homewood coach Ben Berguson. “I can’t believe he doesn’t have any more offers right now.”
In addition to interest from Dartmouth and other Ivy League schools, UAB and several other Group of 5 schools have shown interest. But not much interest has come from big programs.
That’s disappointing for Ray, who played with a maroon sweatband on his right wrist.
“I’m going to keep putting my film out and see if anyone gives me a chance,” said Ray, who finished his senior season with 2,646 yards and 27 touchdowns while completing 181 of 294 passes and rushing for another 812 yards and 12 scores. “My dream school is Auburn. I like to go there. I tried to send them my film but no one replied. I will keep praying and hoping something will happen.”
Ben Neill, who coaches Ray at QB Country, likens the 6ft 3 athlete to a Hollywood hero.
“His play is like a Mel Gibson film. His courage and tenacity are enough to inspire a fan base,” said Neill. “Not only that, he brings natural talent and the ability to really run an offense and scatter the ball all over the field. Whether you need him to throw the field, get the ball out quickly, or run between tackles, Woods can do it all. He really opens the playbook for a coach.”