NORMAN — Jimmy Wood wasn’t there when Noble’s football program hit rock bottom in 2009. That was the season a Bears team just two years removed from the playoffs finished the season 1-9.
But Wood was there in 2010, when coach Steve Barrett returned to the program and began to change the culture in the locker room. And he’s still there now, leading Class 5A in rushing yards and leading the Bears into a stretch run that could see them make the playoffs for the first time in five years.
Wood’s family moved to Noble in his sophomore year, and he immediately found out that things had changed at Noble. Before Barrett’s arrival, the training regimen hadn’t been very strict, something that undoubtedly contributed to the program’s fall.
“They weren’t even doing any lifting the year before I got there,” Wood said. “So the coaches got us started doing something athletic every day to get into shape. Coach Barrett has done a great job getting the program going again.”
The rebuilding process is far from over at Noble (3-4, 1-3), but things have changed inside the program. Barrett can’t put it into words, describing it simply as a “different feeling” than in years past. Having put the most difficult part of their district schedule behind them, a stretch in which the Bears came just a field goal away from upsetting No. 5 Tulsa Memorial, the path to the playoffs is clear for Noble. Win their last three games, all against teams with losing records, and the Bears are in the postseason.
To do that, they’ll look again to Wood, who leads Class 5A with 1,261 yards rushing on 158 attempts. He’s also scored 16 touchdowns this season, all despite missing the first game of the season.
“Jimmy’s been doing a good job for us,” Barrett said. “He’s been a workhorse for us, and he’s been kind of the heart of the offense.”
For his part, Wood, who is being heavily recruited by the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond, gives credit for his success this season to his offensive line.
“They’ve been a huge part of my success,” he said. “You’ve got to give them a lot of the credit.”
Wood’s first goal is to lead his team back to the playoffs by winning out the rest of the season, beginning with Friday’s game against Tulsa Hale, but he has some personal goals as well. Those include rushing for as close as possible to 2,000 yards and finishing with 26 touchdowns this season. To do that, he’ll need to average around 200 yards and two touchdowns a game, assuming the Bears make it into the postseason.
And having that chance at the playoffs is the most important thing on Wood’s mind.
“In four years I’ve never made it to the playoffs,” he said. “That’s all anyone wants, to make it there and have your chance to win it all.”
Corbin HoslerFollow me @Chosler88chosler@normantranscript.com