Wood, Mustangs seek ‘fresh start’ in playoffs

by Mark Oliver

After reaching the Class 4A quarterfinals a year ago, Central Arkansas Christian returns to the playoffs as the third seed in the Class 2-4A conference. According to senior wide receiver/cornerback Grant Wood, the Mustangs have a positive outlook on the opportunity that lies ahead.

“The good thing about the playoffs is that it’s a new season for everyone involved,” Wood said. “If you weren’t able to accomplish your main goals during the regular season, you get a fresh start in the playoffs. We’ve done what we needed to do to get here. Our goal is to enjoy these last few games and come out of it with a state championship.”

Wood was selected to this year’s 501 Football Team — 26 players representing all 11 counties of the 501. The team, sponsored by First Service Bank and First Security Bank, boasts the best the 501 has to offer both on and off the field. Wood was nominated by his head coach, Tommy Shoemaker.

“Grant is a young man of tremendous character,” Shoemaker wrote in his nomination. “He is a great player who has a knack for making plays and always knows his assignments and responsibilities and executes them. He is respectful of our opponents and officials and lets his play speak for him. Grant is a tremendous young man and contributes so much to our team on and off the field. We are proud to have him represent the Central Arkansas Christian Mustangs.”

CAC’s road to War Memorial Stadium begins with a first-round home game against Mena.

“Mena is a good team from a good conference,” Wood said. “One of the most important things for us will be matching their physicality. We’ll need to take care of the ball and keep our defense off the field in order to be successful.”

After sustaining an injury in last week’s regular-season finale, Wood is working diligently to ensure he’s ready for Friday’s kickoff.

“I took a helmet to the hip last week against Stuttgart, and as a result, I haven’t been practicing as much this week,” Wood said. “In nine years of playing football, it’s my first injury. My goal is to rest up this week in order to play as much as I can on Friday.”

Wood, who leads the Mustangs in receiving, aims to achieve a personal goal on Friday against the Bearcats.

“Before the season began, I told myself that I wanted to gain more than 1,000 receiving yards,” Wood said. “I’m currently 129 yards away. I’m not a very big guy, and I’ve had to work hard for everything I’ve accomplished on the field. Hard work has prevailed for me, and it will be no different on Friday. Ultimately, I want to help the Central Arkansas Christian program and leave a lasting impact on my final year.”

No matter the team’s outcome in the playoffs, Wood says that he and his teammates completed one of its long-term goals.

“From winning the conference championship last year and making our deep run to our return to the playoffs this year, we’ve helped turn this team back into a winning program,” Wood said. “As a team, our goal over the past four years was to leave the team in a better place than we found it, and I think we’ve done that.”

Off the field, Wood is involved with National Honor Society, Beta Club, Student Council and History Club at Central Arkansas Christian. The senior is also an all-conference shooting guard for Mustang basketball and plays right field for Mustang baseball. In his free time, the senior enjoys the outdoors and spending time with close friends.

“I like to go duck hunting in the winter with my dad and my friends,” Wood said. “I have a good relationship with most of my teammates, but Hunter Corbell and Cade Huckaby are two of my best friends. In my free time, I also like to play golf whenever I can.”

Earlier this year, Wood traveled to the Dominican Republic on a mission trip with Pleasant Valley Church. According to the senior, the experience was life changing.

“Going on a mission trip with Coach Shoemaker to the Dominican Republic was a unique experience that taught me many things,” Wood said. “One of the things that opened my eyes most is that the people there have so much joy yet they have so little. I learned that it’s really important to not take the things that we come into contact with every day for granted. We are really blessed to live in a country like the United States of America, and sometimes we take that for granted.”

Central Arkansas Christian plays host to Mena at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 11.