HUDSON — The Hudson Cobras have reached the playoffs four times. Each of those teams featured a dominant offensive lineman.
In 2005, Robert Allen anchored arguably Hudson's best team in program history — the Cobras reached the Class 3A region finals and finished 10-3.
In 2007, Travis Tindell was the leader at the line of scrimmage, and in 2009, R.J. Marshall led in the trenches. Last season, Robbie McCarty carried the torch.
Now, Grayson Stover, standing at 6-foot-6 and weighing 300 pounds, follows that lineage. As the Cobras eye their fifth postseason appearance in nine years, Stover will be an imposing figure in Pasco County and his play is being watched by some Division I schools.
“Being a three-year starter, (Stover) just has to take the bull by the horns and get after it,” coach Mark Kantor said. “Hopefully he can stay healthy. He's going to give great effort and there's no doubt about that. He's going to go 100 miles an hour and as long as he can get those other guys going 100 miles an hour, he's going to be just like (quarterback) Joey (Caruso) is up on the line.”
Running backs love running behind Stover — Hudson rushed for 2,352 yards and scored 30 touchdowns in 2013.
Despite losing leading rusher Noah Siegrist, who walked on at UTEP, the Cobras see numerous options behind a mammoth offensive line. Those include Caruso and running backs Billy Werner and Nate Munson.
With Stover leading the way, the Cobras are not just picturing their first back-to-back trip to the playoffs, but also eyeing the program's second district championship.
“We're just going to come out and dominate this season,” Stover said. “We just need to execute, stay on our blocks, stay low and do our thing. Our whole offensive line unit is very close. I think that it excites us to be that first team to make consecutive trips to the playoffs. I think we can do it and make history.”
It's hard to deny that more than 1,400 yards rushing yards from Noah Siegrist will be missed, and the Cobras are headed into the season with a running back-by-committee approach. Picking up the slack will be tailbacks Billy Werner and Nate Munson, with quarterback Joey Caruso also expected to run more this season. But behind a talented and strong offensive line, Hudson shouldn't miss a beat.
The Cobras need to answer questions at linebacker, with Shaun Michael and Scott Carly both lost to graduation. Caruso is expected to step up on defense, as Hudson only has about 33 varsity players. The team should be sturdy up front, as the offensive linemen will flip over to defense.
Hudson is looking to take the next step and the Cobras feel they're poised to win a district championship this fall. The Cobras are considered by many to be the favorites in Class 5A-District 7, but winning the title won't be easy. Ridgewood, River Ridge, Gulf and Wesley Chapel all have improved, and Anclote is looking to defend its 2013 district crown.