December 7, 2021

Times-Georgian Defensive Player of the Year: Zaylin Wood

Courtesy of Mason Wittner and the Times-Georgian

(Franklin, GA) — It’s no secret that the Heard County High School football defense toyed with opposing offenses on a weekly basis en route to closing the year out with 12 straight victories and a Class AA state championship — the first state title in program history.

At the heart of the defensive effort for the Braves was senior defensive end Zaylin Wood, who led the charge for Heard County with 101 tackles while racking up 36 tackles for loss, four sack, 16 quarterback hurries and three pass breakups.

As a result of the monster season, Wood was voted the 2018 Times-Georgian All-Area Defensive Player of the Year.

The Temple University verbal commit points to the Braves’ back-to-back losses to Hapeville Charter, 33-3, and Rockmart, 33-3, as being the turning point for both he personally and the defense as a whole.

“At the beginning of the year, when we lost those two games, I was very humbled,” Wood said.

“After that, everybody really started working as a team. Really, if it wasn’t for everybody else on our defense doing our job, I wouldn’t have been named Defensive Player of the Year. It’s everything we do as a team. If they didn’t do their job, then I wouldn’t be able to make the tackles that I have.”

The defense certainly stepped up and did its job time and time again throughout the the Braves’ historic championship run.

Zaylin Wood at Mercedes-Benz (Photo: Jeff Napier)

After allowing 66 combined points in the second and third games of the season, the Braves closed the year out by allowing just 10.25 points per game over their final 12 contests.

Wood embodies what made he Heard County defense so successful in 2018, as his speed and physicality allowed him to manhandle offensive linemen and create havoc in opposing backfields.

The Braves simply stifled offensive attacks thanks to their speed on the edges and physicality up the middle.

It was a dominant effort that began for Wood, and his teammates, before the season began.

“It really starts in the weight room. We work a lot in there,” Wood said. “Everything really just goes back to weight lifting, honestly.”

Wood joins fellow senior Aaron Beasley — who was voted the 2018 Times-Georgian All-Area Offensive player of the year — and head coach Tim Barron — who was voted the 2018 Times-Georgian All-Area Coach of the Year — as part of a trio of Braves to be recognized for their efforts in the championship season.

“I’m just proud for our community and our kids because it’s nice to see them get recognized,” Barron said.

“From where they were at the beginning of the year to where they are now just says so much about them buying to what their position players are telling them on a daily basis. For us to be honored with Aaron, with Zalyin and as a coaching staff is so nice.”

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