CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- This football season Wayne continues its pursuit for a "three-peat" while junior linebacker Mason Hodge could potentially add to the program's growing trophy case with an individual accolade.
Hodge, a 2012 Class AA first team All-State selection, also contributes offensively as the Pioneers' leading rusher, though it's his defensive skills that have made him a leading candidate for this year's Huff Award, given annually to the state's top defender. As Wayne has established itself as a perennial power, no Pioneers player has won a major individual award since David Morris won the Kennedy Award in 1968.
"It would be a great honor," Hodge said of potentially being named the Huff Award winner.
Still, Hodge said he's more focused on helping Wayne (7-0) reach, then win, the state championship rather than worrying about his odds capturing any individual awards.
"It would be a great accomplishment from a personal standpoint, but I'm just worried about getting there, getting to the playoffs and playing ball from there," he said. "I don't really think about it really. If I get it, I get it. If not, I'm just hoping we have a good season."
At 6-foot-1, 225 pounds, Hodge plays a large role in leading the team toward the title game.
"The physicality he brings to games sets the tone for the entire team," Wayne Coach Tom Harmon said. "Mason plays behind his pads very well and understands leverage."
As a freshman, Hodge earned second team All-State status, before reaching the first team as a sophomore. Both times Hodge helped to lead the Pioneers to state titles. Currently, the program holds a 30-game winning streak in search of its third consecutive state championship.
"It's a complete different team from last year," Hodge said. "Last year, we were a little bit bigger up front, had some experience. This year, we've got a lot smaller guys, quicker, but they still play smart, focusing on what they have to get done."
The Wayne defense has continued its dominance, though, with different personnel allowing an average of fewer than 11 points per game.
With Hodge a junior now at the helm defensively, he's assumed greater responsibilities, though he said his teammates play equally large roles.
"It's not really a leadership thing, but I got their back, they got my back," he said. "I do try to step up on the field and be a leader, but at times there's other guys on the field who do the same thing. It's a team effort really."
Beyond Hodge's physical skills, Harmon said the Pioneer standout displays great knowledge of the game and leadership skills.
"The best asset he has is his ability to make the players around him better," he said. "He understands the schemes as good as anyone. Understanding what everyone is supposed to do every play is like having a coach out there. All the while, Mason doesn't care who gets the credit."