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Pressure falls on the Halls

Sure, Brandon Hall hears the cat calls.

Sure, kids in the hallways make snide remarks.

Sure, it bothers the starting sophomore quarterback who is the son of Hudson High coach Gary Hall.

So does Hudson's 1-5 record. To be sure, Brandon Hall knows he deserves much of the blame for Hudson's poor season. But as he says to the wise guys in the hallways:

"Hey, come on out and play if you think you can do a better job," Hall says. "That usually shuts them up."

But it has not quieted the criticism of his dad, who some say is bringing his son along too quickly.

Though third in the county in passing yardage with 523, Brandon has thrown 14 interceptions and just one touchdown, as the Cobras have lost five straight.

That's a far cry from what had been expected of the Cobras. They returned a host of seniors, including quarterback Ralph Leja, who passed for 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns last season.

Throw in Division I prospects John Whitehead, a 6-foot-8, 300-pound tackle; Andy Caruthers, a 6-4, 285-pound guard; and Robert Cornett, a 6-3, 230-pound linebacker, and Hudson seemed destined for big things.

But destiny took a different turn.

First, Gary Hall decided in the spring to move the 6-4, 220-pound Leja to tight end, for two reasons.

First, Hall said, college scouts said Leja had a much better chance of a scholarship at tight end than quarterback. Second, the coach thought his son, the junior varsity starter as a freshman, was ready to start for the varsity.

Hall stands by the decision.

"If I had to do it all over again I'd do the same thing," Hall said. "We made the move in the spring, and we thought it was best for the team and best for Ralph."

When Brandon led Hudson to a 9-7 season-opening victory over Gulf, Hall seemed vindicated. But even he had doubts at halftime of the game when the Cobras trailed.

"I thought about pulling Brandon at halftime and putting Ralph in," Hall said. "But an assistant coach (Bill Linderman) talked me out of it. He said Brandon was our future."

Hall decided then he would stick with his son through thick and thin. And since that first game, things have been very thin for the Cobras.

Even before the first game, there were grumblings. Hall dropped two seniors from the team, including Cornett, who missed too much practice. And during the season, two more seniors quit in frustration, Hall said.

The parents of other seniors have complained to Hall that he has played players out of position. But Hall maintains that the seniors have not played up to their potential.

Hall admits there is dissension on his team.

"I don't know," Hall said. "I guess there are some who are dissatisfied with the team's morale. It has come down to a few seniors who have not played up to their potential. They think that because they are seniors it gives them the right to start.

"But we have some sophomores who have really worked hard and are ready to play. And they have performed better than the seniors."

Still, the main sophomore, Brandon Hall, has not matched Leja's performance last season. Brandon said he feels the pressure of being a sophomore, but the pressure of being the coach's son is worse.

"It's been rough _ there has been a lot of pressure on me," he said. "I hear the talk. I hear people say I'm too young to be the starting quarterback and the only reason I'm playing is because I'm the coach's son.

"But we're building for the future, and this team is going to improve. We've got a lot of sophomores and juniors who want to play."

Said Gary Hall, "People have to understand that I'm doing what I think is best for this program, not what is best for the seniors."

Leja is the exception.

He struggled at tight end at first but has improved, Hall said. Hall said Leja and two-way starter Brian Sullivan are two seniors who have continued to work hard through the adversity.

"Ralph has been very supportive of Brandon, offering tips on the sideline and picking him up after a mistake. Ralph and Brian have led by example, the way seniors should."

Leja has taken the move from quarterback to tight end stoically.

"Coach Hall is doing what he thinks is best for the team," Leja said. "He is the coach. I just go out every week and play the best I can."

Does Leja believe he could have played better than Hall at quarterback this season?

"I'm not going to comment on that," Leja said.

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