2015 Football: Hoover eager to reprise workhorse role for Falcons

Central's Hank Hoover stands along the sidelines during a recent practice. Rich Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK – Two years ago, Hank Hoover was lost in a depth chart crowded with 21 seniors. There simply wasn’t much playing time readily available for a sophomore on Central High School’s football team in 2013.

That fall was admittedly a tough season for Hoover, who had starred on both sides of the ball as a running back and linebacker in two seasons on the Falcons’ JV squad only to be relegated to a special teams role in his first varsity season.

But Hoover, knowing it was all simply part of the process, accepted his role during his sophomore season.

“It’s just what happens,” he said recently. “You let your older kids play and whenever your time comes, it comes.”

Hoover’s time came in his junior season in 2014 when the graduation of those 21 seniors left nearly every position up for grabs.

“Knowing that all these positions were open, I wanted to get mine,” Hoover said. “I had [mine] since my ninth-grade year and then I wanted it again my 11th-grade year, so I definitely tried to step up my game to claim my spot.”

By the time the first game rolled around last fall, Hoover had locked up a starting role as both the featured running back and one of the middle linebackers. When the season ended, he led Central in rushing yards, touchdowns and total tackles.

As the workhorse in the Falcons’ offensive backfield, Hoover carried the ball 215 times for 923 yards and 11 touchdowns and caught 16 passes for 213 yards and a score. On defense, Hoover tallied 62 total tackles (34 solo).

Hoover was a second-team All-Bull Run District selection at running back a season ago, and Falcons head coach Mike Yew said Hoover possesses a lot of the qualities that make up a “pretty good” high school tailback.

“He has pretty good vision, that’s probably the one attribute,” Yew said. “… He blocks well. He’s got good speed. So he has a lot of the qualities. He’s not a 10 on all of them, but if he’s a seven, eight, nine on pretty much all of them that makes you a pretty good running back and I think that’s where Hank’s at.”

Now entering his senior season, Hoover – whom Yew refers to as a “program player,” or a player who has participated in football at Central for all five years (eighth grade included) – is ready to reprise his role as an every-down player in 2015.

“Definitely want to do it,” Hoover said, “and I want to do it two times better than I did last year.”

With his eye on 1,000 rushing yards and more tackles than he recorded a season ago, Hoover will certainly have his chances to accomplish both of those goals this fall. Yew estimated Hoover will get around 18 carries per game (he averaged 21.5 last season), although Yew said that number will vary based on the game situation and effectiveness of Central’s rushing attack.

On defense, the senior returns as a middle linebacker in arguably Central’s deepest and most experienced position group (all four starting linebackers from last season return), and with some special teams responsibilities tacked on due to limited roster availability, Hoover will rarely leave the field as long as he’s healthy.

“He’s just going to have to play 65, 70 plays a game,” Yew said. “That’s all there is to it.”

To prepare his body for the expected workload, Hoover, who recalled being in less-than-ideal shape for his role at the start of last season, rarely left the weight room during the offseason. The 6-foot, 180-pound senior entered camp this summer about 10 pounds heavier than last season, he said, and he anticipates his legs will be ready to withstand the long season after completing a month’s worth of conditioning drills with Falcons assistant coach Rich Shockey during fall camp.

“Shockey makes sure that you take those shifts by either bear crawling up a hill or carrying another man up the hill on your back, which is just hard. But it builds up the muscle and it gets you ready for the season,” Hoover said.

Central finished 4-6 last season and missed the playoffs after making three straight postseason appearances. But importantly for Hoover, it gave him a real feel for what it takes to compete and be successful at the varsity level.

“I think I’m more aware of what’s going to happen and what the skill level is,” Hoover said. “I’ll be more prepared, I think, than last year.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com