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Les WillseyStaff Writer, AIA365.com firstname.lastname@example.org
RB Hazlett bread and butter of Yuma Catholic offenseNov 15, 2012
The incessant refrain from Scottsdale Christian Academy's sideline last week was 'Get him, get him, get him'.
'Him' was Yuma Catholic running back Kody Hazlett. Hazlett turned in one of his finest performances in a Shamrocks' uniform last Saturday with 250 yards rushing and six touchdowns. The damage Hazlett inflicted in the first half essentially delivered the KO punch (219 yards and fiveTDs) as Yuma Catholic built a 52-19 lead after two periods and went on to a 79-39 victory to move on to Saturday's (Nov. 17) Division V semifinal (and annual postseason battle with Northwest Christian) at 7 p.m. at Arcadia High School.
Hazlett, a three-year letter-winner, played mostly on defense and was a backup on offense his sophomore season. The last two he's led Yuma Catholic's ground game. Hazlett tripled his output from his sophomore to junior year, turning in a 1,303-yard season with 20 touchdowns. He's carried a larger burden this year, almost doubling last year's yardage (2,373 yards and 32 TDs). All the havoc he wreaks comes from a 5-foot-9, 165-pound frame.
Yuma Catholic head coach Rhett Stallworth, now in his sixth season, has fit Hazlett in where he''s most needed each of of the senior's three seasons.
"He played defense his sophomore year," Stallworth said. "He started the 2010 title game at inside linebacker. Since then we've kept him off defense. He's the most well-rounded back we've had here. He causes a lot of problems with his ability, and knows his limitations."
Scottsdale Christian players, those in the game and those on the bench, were exasperated by Hazlett's ability to make tacklers miss and drag a few that did latch on.
"There are two things that set him apart," Yuma Catholic running backs coach Jim Ewan said. "He has deceptive speed. Quicker than he looks on tape. He has that ability to make the first guy miss a lot. And not being a big back, his work ethic in the weight room has allowed him to get a lot of yards after contact. He blocks well and can catch the ball."
Hazlett recently broke the school's single-season rushing mark of 1,928 yards set by Ed Harris in 2009, Hazlett's freshman year. Stallworth has tried at times to rein in Hazlett's workload, but he still has 48 more carries this year than last with one or two games left. In last year's championship game against Northwest Christian, Hazlett held his own against the Crusader's four-year, workhorse back Casey Jahn. Jahn rushed for 153 yards on 30 carrries; Hazlett had 149 on 29. Yuma Catholic won, 21-19.
"There are times we've limited him," Stallworth said of Hazlett. "We did that against Willcox in the first-round. We thought we had opportunities to throw with success. That worked out well. From here on out he's going to get the ball a lot."
Giving up defense and performing on only one side of the ball hasn't been a problem for Hazlett. He's warmed to his offensive role.
"I like to be a workhorse," Hazlett said. "I like the pressure. I learned a lot (sophomore year) playing behind a couple of good backs. When I'm on the sideline I don't think about offense. I concentrate on how our defense is doing. Thinking too much about what you do can get you in trouble."
And besides, Hazlett believes his touches on offense give him opportunity to deliver as well.
"I miss playing defense at times," Hazlett said. "I try to be physical and get my shots in as a runner. If we need a first down I'm aware of the marker and what's needed. I'm more concerned with getting first downs than touchdowns."
Hazlett would like a more productive game on Saturday in the rematch with NWC, but is not his paramount concern. Neither Yuma Catholic or NWC were effective running the ball when they met in mid-August. Yuma Catholic rushed for just 100 yards (95 by Hazlett) and NWC picked up 97 yards. The teams did all their TD-scoring via the pass (two each). A field goal gave NWC the 16-14 win.
"We expect a dogfight," Hazlett said. "We'll play the best we can. Getting a win is what matters most."