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Proof of dedication

The Baltimore Sun

Over the past three years, it seems as though Franklin's Matt Woods has spent nearly as much time on the operating table as he has playing football and lacrosse.

Woods required surgery to repair tendons in his left shoulder in June 2005 after the then-sophomore midfielder suffered a dislocation while executing faceoffs during a late-season game at Pikesville.

A few months later in November, after his junior year of football, Woods had surgery to repair torn cartilage in his right shoulder suffered during an early-season indoor lacrosse game.

This past fall, during the second quarter of the Indians' third football game, the senior defensive back tore cartilage in his left knee while making a tackle.

After an operation removed the damaged cartilage, Woods returned from a two-game absence to help Franklin achieve its best football season in school history.

Woods made four interceptions, recovered two fumbles and made 33 tackles as the Indians went 10-3, defeated previously unbeaten City for the Class 3A North regional title and reached the state semifinals.

"I could easily have given up on sports as a whole, just been done with them altogether, but I was determined to get back on the field," said Woods, 5 feet 10 and 140 pounds. "I believe that my ability to overcome injuries shows a lot about how dedicated I am to my sports, to my teammates, and toward life in general. Sports have taught me about the value of teamwork and how never to give up on anything. Overall, I'm just determined to get it done."

That was the case a year ago, when Woods scored a critical goal in the Indians' 7-6 Baltimore County championship victory over Dulaney, ending the Lions' 73-game winning streak against league rivals and earning Franklin its first boys lacrosse league title.

Last year's statistics - six goals, seven assists - do not tell the full story of Woods as much as his hustle, durability and what fifth-year coach Scott Laudeman calls "a sheer desire to compete - no matter the circumstances."

"When you look at all that Matt's been through - and the fact that he's not a durable, 6-3, 215-pounder - you could hardly blame someone like that for wanting to quit," Laudeman said. "But then again, Matt Woods is not your average kid."

As the lone returning senior starter, Woods' tenacity could be a major factor in the success of a youthful squad that includes talented players such as junior midfielders Mike Higgins and David Borcik and junior defender David Cutair.

"I'm going to have to be more of a leader this year, one of our go-to guys - stepping up my offense, being more of an assist man," said Woods, who has a 3.3 grade point average and plans to attend either James Madison or Towson for physical therapy.

"I want to be remembered as a leader on our first regional champion football team and our first county champion lacrosse team," Woods said. "I want to be remembered as a good student-athlete."

Woods already has a legacy at Franklin, the school at which his parents, Randy and Alyssa, were prom dates as seniors in 1980. Randy Woods wrestled and played lacrosse and football. He helped the football team to a state runner-up finish to Friendly as a senior.

"When my dad graduated, he was pretty much my size and played the same positions in football and lacrosse," Matt Woods said. "There's not a ton of pressure, but my parents have always pushed me to be the best that I can be. So it's been nice that, even with all of my injuries, I've been able to play a key role in the success of our teams."

A member of the Indians' booster club, Alyssa Woods was a central figure in the completion of the new press box and lights at Franklin's field.

She served as the liaison between the contractors in coordinating the project, and Laudeman, a carpenter, recruited his company to build the press box.

"Because of Matt's injuries, we weren't sure whether we were ever going to see Matt play lacrosse again," Alyssa Woods said. "But we were determined to see [the project] come to light before he graduated."

Alyssa Woods' efforts could be rewarded as early as this Friday, when Franklin could get the OK to play its first night game against Eastern Tech, and Matt Woods would lead the Indians before a home crowd.

Woods' versatility was on display in Franklin's 9-8 win in the mud at North Harford on Friday. With the Indians trailing 3-1 after one quarter, Woods was moved from midfield to attack, and he contributed two assists as the Indians rallied past the Harford County power.

"Being a returning starter and a senior, I'll be asking a lot of Matt. He'll play long stick middie, close defense, maybe even some attack," Laudeman said.

"But Matt's a kid who never asks to be the hero. Matt's a kid who simply does whatever he is asked to do whenever he's asked to do it," Laudeman said. "Matt's a kid who has fought through injuries, leaves it all on the field, and who will fight through adversity, doing whatever it takes to win."

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