2015 Football Offensive Player of the Year: Hoover’s commitment leads to record season with Falcons

Central's Hank Hoover set a new school record with 1,854 yards rushing this past season. Hoover is The Northern Virginia Daily's 2015 Football Offensive Player of the Year. Rich Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK – The impression was made on Hank Hoover before he began his high school football career.

Hoover, who fell in love with football at a young age, made his first trip to the weight room at Central High School in seventh grade. He was unsure about the entire concept at first, he recalled five years later.

As one of the youngest kids in the room filled with varsity football players, Hoover said it “didn’t quite feel right.” But Hoover soon found a comfort zone in that weight room as friends his own age joined him. The 7-on-7 football games after the weight lifting sessions kept him coming back.

So did the commitment Central’s varsity football coaches showed in the weight room, even to the kids who were a year or two away from joining the high school program.

“I remember in middle school them coming over and telling us about the program and weightlifting after school, and they were always, it seemed like, trying to get more kids and new kids (into the weight room),” Hoover said recently. “No matter if you were in seventh grade or 12th grade they were always trying to talk and help.”

It was then, in seventh grade, that Hoover became what Falcons head football coach Mike Yew refers to as a “program kid” – a player who joined the Central football program as an eighth-grader and remained through his senior year while putting in all of the necessary offseason work.

Hoover’s trips to the weight room became a regular occurrence.

“Ever since seventh grade, right after school Monday through Friday. Every day,” Hoover said. “It sucked but … you could tell it helps a lot of kids if the kids stay in the program with the weightlifting course and stuff like that. And coaches are always there and pushing you and shoving you, making you sweat and making you run on the track – which everyone hates – but it helps. It really does.”

All of Hoover’s work was in preparation for being a workhorse for the Falcons – “I’d rather carry the team than someone else carry the team,” he says – and he delivered just that for Central in his senior season.

Hoover, The Northern Virginia Daily’s 2015 Football Offensive Player of the Year, set a new Central single-season record by rushing for 1,854 yards this past fall. He scored 23 touchdowns rushing while averaging 168.5 yards on the ground per game, caught eight passes for 163 yards and a TD and recorded 62 tackles as one of the Falcons’ starting linebackers.

Rarely did Hoover get a play off. He never wanted one.

“I always wanted to do this, be able to catch the ball and run the ball. If there’s ever a play they need, I want them to look at me,” Hoover said. “… I always wanted to try my best no matter what. I really, really wanted to impress the coaches and stuff like that so I always stood in, you know, and never wanted to go out.”

It worked. Hoover’s dedication was not lost on Yew.

“There every day,” Yew said. “He’s one of those kids that I didn’t have to look around and wonder did he have excuse to not be in school and not be at practice. He was there every day, at practice every day. That’s something to be commended. Most of the kids do that anyway but it’s always a good example when the kid you’re leaning on, depending on Friday night the most to carry the ball, is a leader in practice as well.”

The Falcons certainly leaned on Hoover in 2015. The senior averaged 27 carries per game and carried fewer than 20 times in a game just once. Five times he carried the football 30 times or more.

“After a while I kind of just got used to it I guess, just knowing that when it was third-and-short, that I might’ve carried it four times before right in a row but I need that extra yard,” said Hoover, who stands 6 feet tall and weighs 180 pounds. “But like I said the weightlifting and offseason workouts and stuff like that, that’s where it all builds up and that’s where it’s that time for that thing to come out, to help it.”

The heavy workload never seemed to wear on Hoover. In fact, his rushing numbers per game increased as the season went on. He racked up over 200 yards rushing in four of Central’s final six games, including what Hoover considers the most memorable game of his senior season – a 247 yard, four touchdown performance in a win over rival Strasburg that avenged a 2014 loss to the Rams.

Hoover’s high rushing totals were the result of a combination of things. He was durable enough to handle the workload. His offseason work made him faster. He’d become more adept at reading where the hole was and identifying the cutback lanes. And of course, he reaped the benefits of an offensive line that appeared to find a rhythm a few games into the season.

“Those guys (were) not just taking two steps and blocking,” Hoover said of the offensive line, “they’re taking five, six and driving guys down the field, putting them on their butts and just keep on going, which helps me a lot when I only have to go through two or three guys instead of four or five.”

Hoover broke Daniel Molina’s single-season record (1,758 yards) in the Falcons’ final game, a 41-14 loss at Buffalo Gap in the first round of the Group 2A East playoffs. Hoover had 172 yards and two touchdowns.

Hoover – who doubled his rushing total from 2014 (923 yards), his first year as a varsity starter – admitted he didn’t know what the school’s single-season rushing record was until his dad told him after he’d nearly reached the 1,000-yard mark with four games left in the regular season. The quest for that record gave Hoover a little extra push.

“I think it was a couple plays that Coach wanted to pass it and I was, ‘No, no. Why don’t you give it to me or something again?'” Hoover said with a laugh. “But it isn’t about breaking the records and stuff like that. I think it’s more a strive to win.”

Hoover has yet to decide on his college plans but said he’s received some interest from several Division III schools. He’d prefer to play baseball in college, although he wouldn’t rule out football.

Though Central’s seniors ended their final season without a playoff win, Hoover said he’s happy with what the Falcons (6-5) accomplished after starting the year 1-3.

“I wish that we could’ve played one more game,” Hoover said. “I think everyone does knowing it’s your senior year and it’ll be your last high school game… But I mean it happens. You can’t always have it your way. I’m happy with what I’ve done with this team and I think everyone is. I think next year we have a lot of kids coming back and we should be pretty good next year.”

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