South Aiken football coach Jeremy West knew he had something special in Will Holbrook during Holbrook’s freshman year.
Holbrook, then filling a special teams role on the kickoff coverage team, raced downfield in the T-Breds’ region opener in pursuit of an Orangeburg-Wilkinson returner. Holbrook met the Bruins’ senior running back near the 20-yard line and jarred the ball loose, forcing a fumble.
Fast forward to Holbrook’s senior season, and he again caught his coach’s eye by causing a turnover.
This time it was a 35-yard interception return for a touchdown against archrival Aiken Friday night to put the T-Breds ahead for good, giving South Aiken a rare second consecutive victory in the series.
“To have a big night like that on Senior Night is pretty special,” said Holbrook, who also added 14 tackles, 2½ for loss, to lead a dominant defensive effort in South Aiken’s 23-6 win, making him the Aiken Standard Player of the Week.
Some advanced scouting by Holbrook led to the pick-six; he attended Thursday night’s junior varsity game and noted the pass plays Aiken was running over the middle of the field. He carried that knowledge into Friday’s game.
“When I saw (Aiken quarterback Bryson Jones) drop back for a pass, I just dropped into my coverage and read his eyes and saw the ball,” he said.
Holbrook’s big play was a momentum-changer in the game; South Aiken’s second straight win over the Hornets may turn the tide in the rivalry, which Aiken had dominated for decades.
“Now people are talking about South Aiken in the city,” West said, “and that wasn’t happening before.”
“It’s awesome to know that we are going out on something that doesn’t happen a lot,” Holbrook added.
Despite a pair of wins to end the season, South Aiken missed out on a playoff berth by a single point.
“I was devastated, because it finally hit me that my high school football career was over,” Holbrook said. “To know we missed out by a small margin, it hurt.”
Though Holbrook’s South Aiken career is over, he still has another game to play before graduation; he was selected to play for the South All-Stars in the 2013 North-South All-Star Game, to be held Dec. 14 in Myrtle Beach.
“I’m definitely honored; it’s a huge deal,” Holbrook said. “To be named one of the top players and be selected to that game is something I’ll definitely cherish and take as a compliment.”
West said he felt that Holbrook elevated his already high level of play in recent weeks after learning of the announcement, adding that his senior linebacker was more concerned with the team playing well and reaching the postseason than with his own individual accolades.
“He’s a team player,” West said of Holbrook, who played both quarterback and linebacker last year out of necessity, something a referee told the coach was something he had never seen in AAAA football. “That’s just what type of kid he is. We’re going to miss him a lot around here.”
West said that he has seen Holbrook grow over his time at South Aiken as a player (“he became the total package at linebacker,” West said) while also praising him as a person.
“He’s a leader by example,” he said. “When he does say something, people listen.”
West also expressed his appreciation of his team’s resolve to keep fighting and end the season on a high note after an eight-game winning streak.
“That’s what makes this such a great place to work at and coach, being around kids like Will and these seniors I have,” he said.
AT A GLANCE
Aiken Standard Player of the Week winners
• Week Zero: Trib Reece, QB, North Augusta
• Week One: Jaquan Williams, RB, Fox Creek
• Week Two: Travious Wigfall, RB/LB, Ridge Spring-Monetta
• Week Three: RJ Stallings, RB/DB, Silver Bluff
• Week Four: Dramel Coleman, Wing/S, Aiken
• Week Five: Antonio Coleman, RB, Williston-Elko
• Week Six: Jauveer Hammond, QB, Strom Thurmond
• Week Seven: Daniel Carr, QB, Midland Valley
• Week Eight: Malcolm Stroman, QB/KR/DB, Wagener-Salley
• Week Nine: Kameron Brown, WR/DB, Midland Valley
• Week 10: Eric Corley, RB/KR, Wagener-Salley
• Week 11: Will Holbrook, LB, South Aiken