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O-line keeps Hudson in the playoff picture

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Thu. October 24, 2013 | Mary Kenney

O-line keeps Hudson in the playoff picture

HUDSON — After consecutive winless seasons  in 2010 and 2011, and a below .500 record last year, Hudson’s transformation is pretty remarkable.

The Cobras (5-2, 3-0) are tied for first in Class 5A, District 7 and close to locking up their first playoff spot since 2009. Coach Mark Kantor points to his front five when asked how the Cobras have surged to this breakout season.

“It’s been a great year,” Kantor said. “And unexpected.”

Friday's game against district foe River Ridge and next week’s against Anclote will prove whether Hudson has grown into a playoff contender.

At a recent practice, Kantor’s team moved through a series of stretches, punctuated by sharp notes on the whistle. The series ended, and the team broke off into little groups. Five players ran to the sideline and stood in a ring around the line coach.

Hudson’s offensive line consists of Robbie McCarty, Alex Munson, Kameron DeWitt, Chris Campos and usually Grayson Stover. Corey Molina is filling in for Stover, who is sidelined with a knee injury.

Without the quintet’s strong play, it’s unlikely Hudson would have a running back approaching a 1,000-yard season — Noah Siegrist has 877 yards and 12 touchdowns.

The Cobras improved last year under then-first-year coach Kantor, notching three wins, but were still far from the top of their district.

Line coach David Broughton, who has been with the team since 2010, said it was preparation in the weight room during the offseason that built this year’s offensive line and, by extension, a winning team.

“This is the biggest team I’ve had,” he said. “I’ve been here for four years. I’ve coached hard workers. But now I don’t have a lineman under 240.”

Four of the teenagers standing around Broughton scoffed at this. Molina pointed to Campos. “He’s 238.”

“Add in the shoulder pads,” Broughton replied, and a couple of them chuckled.

The players agreed that offseason prep work helped them reach this point, but it was also their determination.

“We just got tired of getting our butts kicked,” Molina said, and a few others nodded.

McCarty and Munson have been with the team as long as Broughton. The coach said they were all tired of losing, and that gave them the drive they needed.

Broughton’s players have a unique rewards system. If the Cobras rush for more than 200 yards in a game, the offensive line congregates on Saturday morning on their practice field and drinks Mountain Dew together. If the team gets at least 350 total yards on offense, the players cook hamburgers and hot dogs for each other on Saturday. The skinnier players do the cooking, Broughton said.

“What about last week?” Molina said.

“No,” another coach, standing nearby, cut in. “You had 347 or 348.”

The line has combined leverage and strength this year, Kantor said, something they haven’t been able to do in recent years. Without that line, the team couldn’t accomplish anything.

“They just decided they were going to carry the team,” Broughton said. “And they have.”

Photo: Hudson’s offensive line has paved the way for the Cobras to rack up more than 1,500 yards via the ground this season.

Mary Kenney can be reached at mskenney@tampabay.com or on Twitter @maryknews.

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