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H.S. football: Trio of Salem standouts commit to Louisiana-Monroe

H.S. football: Trio of Salem standouts commit to Louisiana-Monroe

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Good things are happening in threes when it comes to Timesland football players selecting FBS programs.

For the second time in two weeks, a trio of rising seniors from the same school have committed to the same major-college program.

This time they all did it together as Salem running back/linebacker Zavione Wood and defensive backs Jayden McDonald and Jorden McDonald cast their lot Saturday with Sun Belt Conference member Louisiana-Monroe.

Louisiana-Monroe, formerly known as Northeast Louisiana, finished 5-7 in 2019 under fourth-year head coach Matt Viator.

The football program began in the 1950s in the junior college ranks before joining the NAIA and eventually becoming an NCAA Division I Independent.

The school’s campus in Monroe is located approximately halfway between Shreveport, Louisiana, and Jackson, Mississippi, on Interstate 20.

Jorden McDonald said UL-Monroe’s coaching staff began recruiting him and his brother via Twitter after COVID-19 travel restrictions prevented an in-person campus visit.

“They did give us a virtual tour on a Zoom call,” said McDonald, who chose UL-Monroe over an offer from Marshall.

McDonald said he and his brother got together with Wood and decided to commit Saturday as a trio.

Wood and the McDonald twins were mainstays as juniors on Salem’s 2019 team that finished 12-2 and reached the VHSL Class 4 semifinals before losing to eventual state runner-up Tuscarora.

Jayden McDonald made the first team at defensive back on the VHSL Class 4 all-state team, while Wood was a first-team All-Region 4D selection and a second-team All-Timesland choice at linebacker.

Now at 6 feet, 4 inches and 215 pounds, the McDonald twins have bulked up considerably since December when they played at 185 pounds.

Wood, who also averaged 8.0 yards per carry at running back in 2019, is listed at 5-11, 185.

The Salem trifecta came one week after Lord Botetourt rising senior linebacker Kyle Arnholt committed to another Sun Belt school — Appalachian State — joining Cavaliers teammates Colston Powers and Troy Everett in the Mountaineers’ fold.

The VHSL Executive Committee is scheduled to meet Monday to determine if and when fall sports, including football, will be played in 2020-21. It is expected that the league will attempt to play its fall sports from a window beginning March 1 and running through May 1.

McDonald said Saturday he and his brother considered bypassing a spring football season in their final year as Salem Spartans.

“At first we were thinking about [not] playing because we didn’t want to risk the injuries,” he said. “But since we committed to Louisiana-Monroe, they said it didn’t matter if we played or not.

“We’re thinking about playing.”

Wood said he sent UL-Monroe a video after the Warhawks began recruiting the McDonald brothers.

“I sent them a film and they liked it,” said Wood, who said his only other recruiting interest came from ODAC schools Bridgewater and Randolph-Macon. Wood said the Salem threesome did not initially plan to commit to the same school.

“When we got the opportunity, we just went with it,” he said. “We had a talk about it first.”

Wood said he is 100% set on playing for Salem as a senior, even in the spring.

“I’m down with it,” he said.

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