November 13, 2009 9:05:00 AM
ABERDEEN -- A 100-plus yard effort last week wasn''t what Victor Hodges expected.
It''s not that the Aberdeen High School junior is hard on himself, it''s just that he knows an "OK" effort isn''t going to help get the job done at playoff time.
"I could have had two touchdowns, but I tripped on one," Hodges said.
Hodges will try to help Aberdeen (10-2) push its winning streak to 10 at 7 tonight when it plays at Ripley (6-5) in the second round of the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 3A North Half State playoffs.
Last year, Aberdeen defeated Ripley 28-21 on its way to the Class 3A North Half State title game, where it lost to Louisville.
Two-time defending champion Louisville moved up to Class 4A this season, which has opened a path for Aberdeen.
The Bulldogs have done their best to capitalize, regrouping from losses to Columbus and to Pontotoc in week one and in week three, respectively.
The development of Hodges, a transfer from Caledonia High, has helped give Aberdeen a two-pronged threat with senior Jamerson Love in the backfield.
"Everybody knows how good Jamerson is," Hodges said. "That pushes me to do better.
Hodges, a 5-foot-7, 179-pounder, rushed for 114 yards and a touchdown last week in a 40-13 victory against Independence. He said he has enjoyed pairing with Love and is willing to do whatever it takes -- run, block, or catch passes -- to help the Bulldogs realize their goal of getting to Jackson and winning a state title.
"It seems like every game I am excelling in some way," Hodges said.
Aberdeen coach Chris Duncan said Hodges has given the Bulldogs another dimension. He said the offense doesn''t miss a beat when the Bulldogs want to rest Love or they want to pair backs.
"Victor gains a lot of yards in the second, third, and fourth quarter when he breaks tackles because defenses are kind of worn down," Duncan said. "He has a different running style (than Jamerson), but Victor has a little power and the ability to elude people. He runs the ball really hard. He is more of a power back."
Hodges admits he prefers to run through defenders. That style complements Love, who is a quick, elusive runner. In a split-back system, Hodges spends a lot of time blocking, and that''s an area he feels he has improved.
Duncan said Hodges, who is one of the team''s best blockers, could see more minutes at linebacker tonight. That''s fine with Hodges, who wants to help make an impact in his first season back with the Bulldogs. He went to school in Aberdeen as a sixth-grader.
"Just knowing we have the opportunity to get to Jackson makes me want to get better at everything," Hodges said. "Our eyes are on the prize. All we are looking for is Jackson."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.