By Tony Ciniglio STAFF WRITER The entire San Pedro sideline let out a collective gasp when Carson tight end Morrell Presley blew past cornerback Ahmad Wood in last year’s L.A. City Section semifinal. The talented Presley appeared wide open, poised for a game-breaking play. Then, out of nowhere, Wood came back into the picture and intercepted a pass intended for Presley, returning it 54 yards to the Carson 19 to turn the momentum in a close game and send San Pedro to the City title game at the Coliseum. “Sometimes he can get beat, the ball goes in the air and then you don’t know how he got there, but he breaks it up or picks it off,” San Pedro coach Mike Walsh said. “He’s very athletic, a gifted athlete. He has great catch-up speed and is just so fast.” Wood’s speed helps neutralize the rare mistake that he makes on defense, running a 4.4 in the 40-yard dash at the San Pedro combine and a 4.5 at the scout.com Home Depot Center combine. Wood is drawing interest from UNLV, Utah and most of the Pacific-10 Conference. Yet one thing was drilled into Wood’s head when he played junior varsity for the Pirates as a sophomore. “Just don’t get beat,” said Wood, now a senior. “Our JV coach, Ron Carter, said if you get beat deep, you get taken out. So my mentality is to never get beat. I guess I have good makeup speed. “I just don’t dwell on a play. One negative thought can ruin a game. If I get beat, I know I have the speed to get back on it.” When San Pedro needed a big play, Wood provided it last year. Wood had two carries in Week 3 against Peninsula, but they were for touchdown runs of 68 and 43 yards that turned the tide in that victory. “During the whole week at practice, we ran that play, and I was hoping they’d call it because I knew I could do something special there,” Wood said. “On offense, I try to make a play to get our team up.” Wood also had a 19-yard touchdown run on an identical play against Gardena to put that game away early in Week 6. In the playoffs, Wood elevated his game, coming up with the pivotal stop in a 27-26 quarterfinal victory over Venice before making the pivotal pick against Carson. In all, Wood made four interceptions, scored four touchdowns on offense and added 199 rushing yards and 69 tackles. “Our team goal is to make the Coliseum, but personally, I want to try to have the same season as last year or better,” Wood said. “Plus, I’ve got to step up as a returning starter. A lot of young guys are going to look to me and the other returners, and I need to be ready for that.” Walsh said he expects to use Wood as a cornerback and a receiver, but has worked him at four different positions and expects to use him on special teams as well. “We don’t want to kill him playing every down of every game,” Walsh said. “We’ve got to find him some rest somewhere.” Though Wood made an interception in the season opener against University last season, he admitted he was nervous in his first year on varsity. Wood opted to play freshman basketball his freshman year instead of football. Then, when he was ready for football, Wood had to spend a year on the junior varsity team, moving up to the varsity team for the playoffs, but not seeing any action. Then he broke out in his junior season. “He shocked everybody last year,” said defensive lineman Richard Pele, who is Wood’s best friend. “We’re counting on him to be one of our main players. He’s got everything – speed, quickness, smartness and great vision. He also doesn’t care if he messes up. He does every once in a while, just like anyone else, but he shakes it off and goes after it the next time. “He’s just a cool cat.” Wood said he tries to take a laid-back approach. “I just like to hang out with friends, hang out with them and make fun of Coach (Grant) Beachley,” Wood said. Wood said his mother, Maria Wood, has raised him by herself and added that she set a strong foundation. “She’s a hard-working woman, and she tries to give me everything I can ask for,” Wood said. “My mom is like my best friend.” [email protected] local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!