He was never the biggest, strongest or fastest guy on the field, but he was always on the field. That’s why the Most Valuable Player on the 2010 Hermiston football team was Mark Hodges Jr.

This isn’t a knock on the dozens of other guys that made major contributions to the team this year, but admiration for what the senior strong safety/linebacker/H-back/tight end/quarterback/kick returner accomplished this year. That’s six different positions, and I probably missed something.

It would be fascinating to find out how many plays out of the hundreds of offensive, defensive and special teams snaps took place during Hermiston games this season that Hodges wasn’t on the field.

I would be shocked if he was on the field any less than 95 percent of the time. The other three coaches in the Columbia River Conference made him a first team selection on both sides of the football. On offense, they pretty much created the position of “Utility Back” to recognize him on the first team because he wasn’t a full-time running back, tight end, receiver or quarterback. He was just a full-time offensive player.

Hodges is an outside linebacker, but played strong safety most of the year because as small as the stable of linebackers was on defense, there were even fewer defensive backs. When other kick returners got hurt, he moved into that role, too. If it wasn’t under the auspice of high school football, someone might have wanted to talk to Hermiston coach Mark Hodges about how often he sent his son into harm’s way.

Although I’ve never directly asked the question to the younger Hodges, I don’t think he would have had it any other way. This was his senior season and the final year that he would play for his dad, so it seemed like he was going to do anything and everything the team needed to try to be successful. There is never a better example than when he filled in at the quarterback position.

When I would have my weekly conversation with Coach Hodges to prepare for the upcoming broadcast, sometimes Mark would be watching film of 2003 North Medford games in the coach’s office. I didn’t realize it immediately, but he was specifically studying uarterback Beau Hovland — Mark’s boyhood idol when Coach Hodges was at the helm for the Black Tornado. Hodges wasn’t a quarterback, his brother Colin was the family QB, but the team needed an offensive spark with Tim Rude out and Hodges was the best option available.

As an aside: Jerod Munsterman is going to be a tremendous quarterback. If he keeps growing at the position like he did this fall, before he got thrown into the starting role, he might set all of Hermiston High’s career records. But for some reason the rest of the team played with more confidence when Hodges was under center.

I know there will be people who disagree with me — three people did when we announced our post season awards on KOHU’s Bi-Mart Bulldog Tailgate Show last night. There might be other players who wonder, “What about me?” and parents who want to know “Why not my son?”

Being the play-by-play broadcaster, I consider mine a unique perspective on the season because I never look away from the field. I never stop talking and thinking about team football team from kickoff until well after the clock hits zeros. There are valid arguments for the impact that other guys had, too.

I’m not taking anything away from the others on this team, but with all the adversity this team faced this year they probably wouldn’t have ever had a lead in conference play without Hodges on the field, and that’s a MVP to me.

Erick is the news/sports director at KOHU/KQFM. He is also the play-by-play broadcaster for Hermiston High School athletics. Complain to him at eolson@eotnet.net.

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