Woodbridge’s Styles named Co-Defensive Player of Year

Leah Styles helped anchor the Woodbridge defensive line to a historic season. The Blue Raiders recorded five shutouts and held opponents to 4.9 points per game in the regular season on their way to an unbeaten record of 13-0 overall. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

GREENWOOD — When he was a freshman at Woodbridge High, Leah Styles was a backup defensive back.

By the time his career was over, Styles developed into one of the best defensive players in the state — as a defensive end.

Styles was selected as one of the state’s Co-Defensive Players of Year. He shared the honor with Concord linebacker Avery Roberts.

He helped guide Woodbridge to its first football state championship as the Blue Raiders defeated Wilmington Friends 14-9 last Saturday in the Division II title game.

Woodbridge coach Ed Manlove said the coaching staff decided to switch Styles to a defensive end early in his sophomore year. He came up with the idea when Styles played a few snaps at defensive end in practice.

“He was able to eat us up in practice on the defensive line so we figured let’s try it,” Manlove said. “The rest is history.”

Along with fellow All-State First Teamer Shymere Vessels, Styles anchored the Woodbridge defensive line to a historic season.

The Blue Raiders recorded five shutouts and held opponents to 4.9 points per game in the regular season on their way to an unbeaten record of 13-0 overall. Woodbridge did not let a team score more than 12 points in a game all year.

That defensive line was a large reason why Woodbridge was able to hold off Wilmington Friends in the championship game. The Quakers had the ball inside the red zone twice in the fourth quarter but the Blue Raiders held them to a combined three points on those drives.

Styles had a key sack to back Wilmington Friends up on the Quakers final drive of the game.

“He kind of is the total package for a high school football player,” Manlove said. “He knows how to make plays, he’s athletic and he has a heart. He just goes full tilt until the final whistle blows. He’s just a special, special high school football player.”

In the last two seasons as a full-time starter, Styles helped lead Woodbridge to a combined record of 21-4 and a pair of berths in the Division II semifinals.

Manlove said he wasn’t surprised how quickly Styles learned the defensive end position.

“He’s one of those kids where you teach him a couple things and he’ll perfect it,” Manlove said. “It’s just so hard for other teams to stop him. He’s like a rubber band out there. He can stretch a hundred different ways and he’ll keep coming at you.”

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