In the Town of Batesburg-Leesville, the smallest school in Chronicle Country stands alone among its larger peers.
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After six weeks of football, W.W. King Academy is the area's lone undefeated team. The Knights own a 6-0 overall record, are 2-0 and possess first place in SCISA Region 1 for 8-man football.
They also feature three players who aren’t just brothers but triplets. Collin, Colby and Carson Woodward are a unique "triple threat" who have significantly contributed to the team's recent success.
Separated at birth Nov. 15, 2004 by a few minutes, the Woodwards have played football together since the sixth grade. Since they have joined the varsity ranks, head coach and school headmaster Zach Matthews has seen the trio develop into dependable starters at their respective positions and team leaders.
"Initially, I had to figure out how to remember them, keep them apart," he said. "I had them in seventh grade science and I still didn't know him apart fully. So I'd have to put one on this side of the room, one in the middle and one on the other and know which one.
"But no, it's been great. These guys have put in a lot of time here at King Academy in all the sports they play and their passion for this football team is wonderful and that's what makes them who they are."
The oldest Woodward, Collin, is the starting quarterback and most vocal of the clan.
"I've got to kind of keep them in control," said Collin in regards to his "big brother" role. "They like to be free with whatever they say and all. So I have to keep them in check."
Collin's nine total touchdowns (seven rushing) are second on the team behind running back Ben Sauls. The sophomore leads the team in rushing yards (1,099) and touchdowns (21). Along with Colby and Seth Gross, who returned to the team following a season-ending injury a year ago, Sauls has played a major role in the Knights' running prowess.
When not at linebacker, Colby is the team's center. He's responsible for both protecting his older brother as well as opening lanes for the running backs.
This includes youngest brother Carson, who has rushed for 355 yards and four touchdowns.
While Colby acknowledges he's the first to "jump on everybody" whenever they make a mistake, Carson, who's also a safety, is the one who lets his play speak for itself.
"Doing all the little things right that we possibly can," Carson said. "Coming in some days and working as hard as we can during the week to prepare for the next week."
This week's contest is arguably the Knights' biggest test of the season. They travel Oct. 7 to undefeated and two-time defending SCISA 8-man champion Holly Hill Academy, winners of 27 straight games.
One of those victories was a 58-0 rout of W.W. King Academy in the opening round of the 2020 playoffs. Since then, the Knights have gone 13-3 over the past two seasons and the team believes they will be better prepared for the rematch.
"We can actually block somebody now," Colby said. "I mean, we struggled big time the first time we got to play them."
"I think our guys are older," Matthews said. "They're more mature as individuals. They're stronger, a little faster. But more importantly, I think they just put in a lot of hard work since the last time we played Holly Hill."
"As we came through school, we didn't really have a lot of upperclassmen," Collin said. "This is the first year we really have a large group in our junior and senior class."
At the same time, the Knights have looked to downplay the significance of the matchup.
"Well, I just think we just got to play the game," Matthews said. "We can't make this game bigger than any other game. And like we say, every week, whoever we play that week, that's the biggest game of the season. So right now, this game will be our biggest game. But ... nothing's different. And we're gonna approach it just like a regular week for us."
"We'll let this week take care of itself, play the rest of the season and see what happens when we get to the playoffs," Colin said.
Thomas Grant Jr. | Chronicle
W.W. King Academy's Collin, Colby and Carson Woodward.
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