On most high school football teams, Sidney Hodge would be the go-to running back or top cover cornerback, if not both. At Palo Verde, he’s neither.
And that’s fine with him.
Palo Verde’s depth of talent is one of the reasons the Panthers (14-0) are undefeated, and that talent will be on display when they take on McQueen (13-0) for the Class 4A state championship at 12:07 p.m. today at UNR’s Mackay Stadium.
On offense, Chaz Thomas is the go-to back, having rushed for 1,725 yards and 16 touchdowns. In the secondary, much of the focus is on Southern California recruit Torin Harris, who doubles as a big-play running back.
But teams also must plan for Hodge, who is third on the team in rushing with 813 yards and eight touchdowns.
“It’s all part of the plan,” Hodge said. “Chaz is a good man, makes good plays. Torin makes good plays. We all got a good system going on, a good rotation.”
Hodge has come through with his two best games the last two weeks. He’s rushed for 237 yards in the two games, including a season-high 139 in a 42-21 state semifinal win over Las Vegas.
“Sid, he gets around the corner, and he goes,” Panthers guard/linebacker David Castro said. “He gets the sideline, and he takes off pretty well. He’s very agile.”
Thomas and Hodge are the starting wingbacks in Palo Verde’s double-wing offense. Harris (561 yards, 10 TDs) spells both of them and also takes snaps at quarterback. Then there’s fullback Tyrone Blake (846 yards, 10 TDs), who gives the Panthers an inside running presence.
“We’ve got Chaz, who’s like a bull,” Castro said. “He pretty much just rams it up the middle. And then we have Torin, and Torin makes stuff happen whenever he wants, basically. Tyrone, we open it up right in the middle, and he finds the seam.
“So having all those different runners, we have a large option to choose from on offense.”
The Panthers will need as many offensive options as possible against a McQueen team that has allowed an average of six points per game this season. The Lancers have given up a total of 147 rushing yards in three playoff games.
“They do look like a good, strong ballclub,” Hodge said. “But I figure if we go up there and play our game, do what we do, we should come out on top.
“I figure the bigger they are, the harder they fall.”
As a USC recruit, Harris gets most of the attention in the secondary. But it’s Hodge who leads the team with seven interceptions.
Hodge and Harris each have three interceptions in the last two games. Harris has returned two of those for touchdowns.
“(Hodge is) our leading interceptor, and you’d never know that because all they ever talk about is Torin, Torin, Torin,” Palo Verde coach Darwin Rost said. “The reason he is our leading interceptor is because they’ve throw away from Torin.
“The last couple weeks they’ve thrown at Torin, and you see what happens when they do throw to him.”
McQueen quarterback Anthony Stolo has been picked off just two times this season. That’s partially because the Lancers build everything off a powerful running attack, led by Tyler York (1,769 yards, 31 TDs).
“We’ve seen a lot of good running teams, and we’ve stopped a lot of good running backs down here,” junior defensive lineman Daniel Godkin said. “It’s an awesome feeling to know that you’ve gone this far.
“It’s in our hands now. We’ve just got to go and take it.”