Extra ice packs and pain relievers can be useful for teams who square off against defending Class 3A state champion Parkview Baptist.
And no player better epitomizes the Eagles’ physical brand of football than Conner Hodgeson.
The junior fullback-rover has made an impact on both sides of the ball this season, anchoring the Eagles’ triple-option offense while contributing to a defense that’s surrendered more than 20 points only once during its six-game winning streak.
“Everything starts with him because if we can establish the fullback, that puts a lot of pressure on the rest of the defense,” said PBS coach Kenny Guillot. “He’s going to get tackled every play whether we give him the ball or pull it, so he’s got to be physical and get back to the huddle to do it all over again.”
Hodgeson has tallied 702 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. His production between the tackles has opened lanes for running back Hezekiah Randolph, who has rushed for 712 yards and nine TDs.
Both backs have provided the balance that’s helped the Eagles (7-3) average 43 points during their past six games.
“When somebody’s having a good game or breaks a long run, it jacks up the rest of us and helps us feed of each other,” Hodgeson said. “I usually get the ball for the tough yards and first downs, which opens up tosses and the option game when the linebackers and ends are going for me.”
PBS, the No. 11 seed in Class 3A, and its vaunted rushing attack travel to Crowley on Friday for a regional round matchup with sixth-seeded Notre Dame (8-3).
The Eagles defeated the Pioneers in last year’s semifinals en route to the state title, avenging a loss to Notre Dame in the 2009 final. Either team has appeared in the 3A state championship game since 2007.
“We’re evenly matched, and it’s almost like we’re playing ourselves because we both have good football programs, and we both have the heart and passion for the game,” Hodgeson said.
Hodgeson’s offensive role will be as important as ever against a Notre Dame defense that allowed 13 points in its last three regular-season games. Whether Hodgeson can help the Eagles control time of possession and field position, as well as direct attention away from the rest of the PBS backfield, could determine which team will have the upper hand.
“He’s the key because he’s the guy who has to get up in the middle whether there’s a hole or not,” Guillot said. “He’s going to have to get those tough yards against a defense that’s physical like ours, so it’s going to be tough sledding in there, but hopefully we can soften them up some.”
The meeting between Class 3A’s most recent champions won’t change Hodgeson’s approach.
“You can’t be soft, and you always have to be ready to get hit,” he said. “I’ve learned the faster you play, the less you get hurt, so that’s how I try to play.”