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Friday Night Drive’s 2021 Defensive Player of the Year: Richmond-Burton’s Brock Wood

Friday Night Drive’s 2021 Offensive Player of the Year: Luther Burden III

The statement is one that does not smack of hyperbole.

“I’ve told him a hundred times, I don’t think there’s anything more he could have done for us to win,” Richmond-Burton football coach Mike Noll said. “He was outstanding in all ways.”

Noll was speaking of senior fullback-linebacker Brock Wood, who was the quintessential small-school star as the focal point of the offense and defense for the Rockets, who were 12-1 and lost to Class 4A state champion Joliet Catholic, 35-18, in the semifinals.

Wood led a defense that allowed 158 points in 13 games and recorded four shutouts. He also rushed for 1,658 yards and 27 touchdowns for the Rockets’ offense as they stretched their winning streak to a state-best 32 games before their semifinal loss.

For Wood’s efforts, he is Friday Night Drive’s Defensive Player of the Year, selected by sports writers from the various Shaw Media publications across northern Illinois.

Wood (6-foot-1, 210 pounds) racked up 126 tackles, one interception and 15 tackles for losses for the Rockets. He was one of three starters back from the 2019 Class 4A state champions.

“What we were able to do is almost unspeakable,” Wood said. “We were undersized pretty much everywhere on the field. We played so hard, low and physical that no one really knew what to do against us.

“They didn’t know how to block our defense at all. The motto ‘Bend don’t break and first downs not touchdowns’ defines what our defense was. People got first downs and big plays on us, but not a lot of teams could get to 12-play, 14-play drives and just pound it down our throat.”

Noll said Wood was the total package of what any coach wants.

“He was our tonesetter,” Noll said. “On defense, he calls our signals, makes our adjustments, he just did more than you can really speak to. Partially it’s aptitude and it’s also preparation. He is a much better practice player this year as a senior and just a much better leader for his team as a senior.

“He checked all the boxes for us. It’s hard to play both ways. On defense, when you’re calling all the signals and making the adjustments and he did it.”

Rockets junior defensive lineman Nate Komar said Wood’s teammates appreciated his supportive attitude.

“Brock is a great athlete and also a very good emotional leader for us,” Komar said. “In tough times, he was always there, telling us he would be there for us and we needed to be there for him. He had all the knowledge in the world.

“He really was the cornerstone of our defense. If somebody made a mistake, and everybody makes mistakes, he would say, ‘It’s all right, pick your head up. Play, reset, repeat.’ Even if you mess up, think about your assignment the next play and don’t give up on yourself in tough times.”

Wood said he would want the same from his teammates.

“I’m not perfect by any means,” he said. “I make some mistakes. They do the same thing I do for them. I’m always positive. If I have an ‘off’ play I know they’ll pick my slack up. The whole defense knows the game plan.”

Wood’s older brother Dalton was the Northwest Herald Player of the Year in 2019 when he played fullback and middle linebacker on the 14-0 state championship team. Brock Wood played linebacker next to Dalton, then took over Dalton’s positions when he graduated.

The boys’ father Steve Wood is Noll’s defensive coordinator and was head coach at Grayslake North from 2006, when it opened, to 2016. Growing up with a coach and an older brother has its benefits.

Wood has fond memories of being in the Knights’ locker room with Steve’s players, watching every move.

“I wanted to be like them when I was older and I want to do what they can’t do,” Wood said. “I want to do all these things that not a lot of people in their lifetimes can say they’ve done.

“And Dalton, we’ve always pushed each other hard, a good way of pushing each other. We want to one-up each other, no matter what we do. He’s my biggest supporter right now. He plays on Saturdays and can’t come to my games, but he’s always watching, telling me how good I was, asking me about the game in general. My brother has done incredible things for me.”

Noll, whose son Brady played for him at McHenry, knows the advantages.

“Coaches’ kids are around it a lot so they understand it a little better,” Noll said. “Then at home, when his dad’s working on football, Brock was too. The preparation part is really, really good for coaches’ kids because you can just call him in the living room and say, ‘Hey, look at this.’ You can make corrections at home.”

Wood lists NCAA Division II Indianapolis, D-III Dubuque (where Dalton plays safety) and NAIA schools St. Ambrose and St. Xavier among his top schools. He likely will play linebacker in college, although there have been some discussions about fullback.

Komar knows some college team will be getting and exemplary teammate with Wood.

“He’s insane in the weight room. He never takes a rep off,” Komar said. “He’s not one to do that. He lifts hard, he lifts heavy and keeps everyone else on the team accountable, making sure everyone else puts in the work they need to for us to be a good team.”