High school football: Hodge a defensive presence for Pioneers
PARKERSBURG, W.Va. -- Most discussions of defending Class AA state champion Wayne's drive for a repeat title in 2012 has revolved around the impressive play of senior running back Brandon Spurlock.
It stands to reason. Spurlock (5-foot-7, 180-pounds) ran for 1,565 yards and 23 touchdowns in the regular season. His playoff run started off well enough, too, as he gained 122 yards on eight carries and scored twice - once on a pass reception - in top-seeded Wayne's 63-24 dominance of No. 16 seed Clay County (5-6) in the first round last week.
The Pioneers play defense too.
In fact, a key element of Wayne's 11-0 start and 20 consecutive wins has been sophomore linebacker Mason Hodge (6-0, 230.
"Number one, he's such a physical presence," Wayne Coach Tom Harmon said Sunday at the Secondary School Activities Commission offices.
"It's not just in his height and weight, but it's his attitude toward the game. He's a guy that just doesn't care. That's the great thing about our program is that, credit-wise from Brandon to Mason to the offensive linemen they really don't care who gets the credit.
"They do a good job pulling together, and Mason's the king of that."
Wayne's starting defense has not given up a passing touchdown this season. The Pioneers are allowing an average of 235.4 yards per game, much of which has come in the second half of games.
Wayne has averaged 41.1 first-half points through 11 games, and led the Panthers 51-6 at halftime in the first round.
For his part, Hodge remains the team's second-leading rusher as well as its top defensive player. The sophomore has 532 yards on just 21 carries.
"With the limited quarters we've had and having a really talented tailback, it's limited his carries," Harmon said. "He might break some kind of record for yards per carry, but like I said, he doesn't care."
No. 9 seed Nicholas County (7-3) visits Wayne for a quarterfinal game at 7:30 p.m. Friday. It is the second straight week the Pioneers will face a playoff opponent that is in somewhat uncharted waters.
Clay had not been to the playoffs since 2004 before last week. Nicholas County claimed its first playoff win in school history by beating No. 8 seed Ritchie County 31-7.
"It's pretty neat, really, being able to play teams that you haven't played in the past," Harmon said. "Our list of teams we haven't played in double-A is pretty small.
"Last week and this week makes it a little more interesting because it involves some more film work and study time because we're playing teams that we're not real familiar with."
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BRIDGEPORT GOT an unexpected boost in its 54-7 rout of No. 14 seed River View in the first round.
Junior defensive back Anthony Bonamico (6-1, 165) intercepted two passes from Raiders quarterback Austin Walker, and returned the second pick 47 yards for a third-quarter touchdown.
Bonamico was seeing his first action since the first week of the regular season. The running back/safety broke his foot in the Indians' 29-14 win over Buckhannon-Upshur on Aug. 24.
As a sophomore in 2011, he had more than 800 rushing yards and eight touchdowns.
"I had no intention at all of playing him, really," Bridgeport Coach Josh Nicewarner said. "We had some late injuries that we found out about right before the game started that forced that role.
"It's comforting to have him back in there. Anthony, when he's in the game things tend to happen, and he came back and proved that quite early."
Nicewarner said that, for now, he intends to keep Bonamico on the defensive side of the ball while not playing him at running back.
The third-seeded Indians (8-2) play host to No. 6 seed Frankfort (9-2) at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
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WHILE AS coach of the Indians from 1997-2009, Bruce Carey didn't often have players who could keep up with the speed on Bluefield's roster.
That's not the case this season, his first at No. 4 seed Robert C. Byrd (10-1).
"Bluefield's going to be a tough opponent. They've got a lot of speed," said Carey, whose Eagles struggled early in the first round but topped No. 13 seed Braxton County 27-21 in Clarksburg.
"We have some speed too, though, so hopefully we can match them a little better. A lot of times teams in our area don't match up too well with them."
The fifth seed in the 2012 Class AA field, Bluefield (9-2) disposed of No. 12 seed Roane County in the first round, and has made a habit of ending the playoff hopes of Harrison County clubs in the past. On three separate occasions the Beavers
Bluefield beat the Mountaineers 32-20 in the 1997 first round en route to a Class AA state championship.
The Beavers also handed Liberty a 71-46 quarterfinal loss in 1999, and first-round defeats in 2005 (24-8), 2006 (46-6) and 2010 (42-0).
Liberty, Clarksburg's school that opened in 1973 as a consolidation of Victory and Salem high schools, is Carey's alma mater.
The teams meet at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Clarksburg.