Sports Spotlight: Willoughby’s hard work leads SouthWest Edgecombe to Conference title, Player of the Year honor

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) – High school all-star games played over the weekend and one of the guys who strapped up the pads was Southwest Edgecombe’s Jalen Willoughby. The senior had a big year individually and with his team. We feature him in our Pepsi Sports Spotlight.

“My mom signed me up,” says SouthWest Edgecombe senior Jalen Willoughby, “and ever since then I fell in love with it.”

SouthWest Edgecombe senior Jalen Willoughby led the Cougars to the Eastern Plains 2A Conference title this fall going 10-3 overall.

“He was kind of the guy who led the charge to say like we want to go out and win the conference, we want to have a great year, we want to host playoff games, we want to win 10 plus games,” says SouthWest Edgecombe Head Coach Carter Varnell, “and he was the guy that did it. He was our team captain. He made it happen.”

It has been four years of varsity work for Willoughby. If he wanted to play ball in high school it was the only option.

“Underclassmen had to go straight to varsity we didn’t have JV COVID year,” said Willoughby about playing varsity since his freshman season, “Then just stayed on varsity ever since then.”

As a senior, the running back had almost 1,400 yards rushing with 29 rushing touchdowns.

“Just to get to touch the ball and get to run and score,” says Willoughby, “Run people over, stiff-arm people, juke them it is just a whole lot of fun.”

Willoughby was recently named the Conference Player of the Year.

“Worked extremely hard,” says Varnell, “and he certainly earned everything he accomplished this year without a doubt.”

A huge senior season helping his team go from 4-7 his junior year to making the third round of the state playoffs.

“Everybody communicating, everybody is together. One family,” says Jalen, “and its good coaching, great coaching.”

Jalen played for Team 252 in the 919 vs 252 All-Star Showcase on Saturday in Greenville .

“It’s great, worked too hard not to have it,” said Willoughby.

And he plans to keep running the ball at the next level in college.

“They should come see,” says Willoughby, “It’s great, it’s a movie.”

Jalen says he has been in contact with a few different college football programs but is not ready to share any information on his possible destination just yet.