Players of the Pine Belt: Wayne Academy’s Will Hodo ready for Friday night’s lights

Players of the Pine Belt: Wayne Academy’s Will Hodo ready for Friday night’s lights

WAYNESBORO, Miss. (WDAM) - Count Wayne Academy senior Will Hodo among those who believe that the show must go on when it comes to Friday night high school football.

“For a lot of people in our county and surrounding counties in the state, I think it’s what everybody looks forward to every year,” Hodo said. “I think taking that away from everybody would be a big mistake, for not just the players, but the entire community.”

Hodo and the Jaguars will do just that Friday, when Wayne Academy hosts Natchez Cathedral High School. The Midsouth Association of Independent Schools Class 4A opener kicks off at 7 p.m.

The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Hodo, who was tapped as Wayne Academy’s “Player of the Pine Belt,” will be among a group of Jaguars who will play on both offense and defense.

Hodo, a three-year starter, will play receiver and linebacker and also handle punting duties.

“We have a lot of guys (who) are going to go both ways so early in the season,” Wayne Academy coach Todd Mangum. “Conditioning’s always a big thing at any level, but especially when you’ve got two-way guys.

“We have to create as much depth as we can in practice to be able to be ready on Friday night.”

Hodo, a standout baseball player who has verbally committed to the University of Alabama in the sport, said the Jaguars were excited to be back on the football field.

The coronavirus shut down spring practice and required changes in the staging of summer workouts.

“It’s just really exciting to get out there and get to compete against somebody again,” Hodo said. “I know everybody on our team is excited and I’m sure the other team is, too, so it should be a fun night all around.

It’s weird to be around a large group of people, of course. But just to come back and get the companionship going, it’s just nice to be around people again.”

Mangum said protocols are in place to stifle the threat of the virus as much as possible.

We’ve done everything that we needed to do as far as following the guidelines set up by our health agencies and our governor and everything,” said Mangum, who is heading into his said. “Our guys have been doing what they’re supposed to do and trying to stay healthy.

“Hopefully we can as the season begins.”

The Jaguars finished 5-6 last season, including a win over Natchez Cathedral in the opening round of the 2019 MAIS Class 4A playoffs.

Hodo will play a large role if Wayne Academy to take further steps forward as a program.

“He’ll be a three-year starter, and has been a good player for us,” Mangum said. “We look for big things out of Will this year.”

Hodo said he’s ready to go.

“We’re immersed in the offense and we have it down pat,” Hodo said. “I think we should be locked and ready to go (Friday).”

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