Athlete of the Week: Wildcats RB Dodson enjoyed career rushing night vs. James Wood

Ronnie Dodson

FRONT ROYAL – Warren County High School junior running back Ronnie Dodson made a deal with the Wildcats’ starting offensive linemen prior to last week’s home game against James Wood. If Dodson reached at least 250 yards rushing against the Colonels, he told his line, he would pay each of them $20. Dodson very nearly was $100 poorer following the Wildcats’ 35-8 victory.

The junior came within nine yards of that lofty rushing total, setting career highs in carries (32), rushing yards (241) and touchdowns (three) in the blowout win, the Wildcats’ first under new head coach Brian Bush.

Dodson, The Northern Virginia Daily’s Athlete of the Week for Sept. 11-17, heaped praise on the performance of Warren County’s offensive line after practice on Tuesday, and credited the coaching staff’s push to get a more physical effort from that group as the catalyst behind that dominating performance.

But he didn’t deny that his proposition to his o-line likely played a factor in what Dodson said was the Wildcats’ most physical performance through the team’s first three games of 2017.

“Not gonna lie, yes, I do think … they had that in their head,” Dodson said with a laugh, “like ‘come on, we need to push this guy extra hard, get Ronnie through, get him to 250, get him over 250.'”

Dodson, who scored two rushing touchdowns all of last season as Warren County’s lead back, found the end zone twice in the first 20 minutes against James Wood last Friday and capped the night’s scoring with a 1-yard touchdown run with 4:29 left in the fourth quarter.

He had 166 rushing yards in the first half, and though none of Dodson’s three rushing touchdowns went for longer than 3 yards, finished the game averaging 7.5 yards per carry.

“I’m running the ball and all year it’s been kind of hard for me to get out of the backfield,” said Dodson, who didn’t have a rushing touchdown this season and was averaging just 2.9 yards per carry entering the game. “The coaches got on the o-line, and I give my credit to the o-line. I couldn’t have done anything without the o-line and the coaches pushing the o-line. If the coaches didn’t push the o-line to get better, they wouldn’t have got better. So the o-line went out there and fought.

“It was beyond amazing,” he added of his career night. “I haven’t been through that experience and I will never forget that. I’ll never forget it.”

Bush, who didn’t enter the game expecting to hand the ball to Dodson over 30 times against the Colonels, said last Friday’s game wasn’t the first in which the junior running back has run with that same confidence and field vision. But, the head coach added, it was the first game in which the Wildcats were able to open up the necessary holes in front of their starting tailback.

Dodson had one more carry and 152 more rushing yards against James Wood than he had in Warren County’s first two games of 2017 combined.

“During the game I knew he was doing well and our offensive line was doing well, and I knew that he was getting up there in yards and carries and things like that. But I didn’t realize the type of cuts and the type of runs that he actually had until I watched film,” Bush said. “There were times when I was watching film I was like, wow, that’s a running back cut right there. You don’t see many kids able to do that and see the hole that he saw, and the cuts that he made is pretty special.”

What Bush saw while watching the replay from last week’s win are the areas in which Dodson said he has greatly improved since last season.

“I feel like I’m definitely lighter on my feet this year,” said Dodson, who rushed for 693 yards last season. “I was closing on 180 (pounds) last year and I’m only 167 this year. My cuts have gotten better and I feel like I’m just seeing better, and coming off my blocks better.”

Bush’s only observations of Dodson’s 2016 season have come through old game film, but even he can see a noticeable difference in that Dodson is thinking “end zone” each time he touches the football.

“You can tell as soon as he hits a hole or makes a cut, in the back of his mind he wants to score,” Bush said. “So whatever way possible it is to get from point A to point B in that end zone, he wants to make that happen. And watching a little bit of film from last year, I think he was a good back last year but it was to the point where … he didn’t have the excitement that he has now. He’s either gonna run you over or make you miss in some way this year, so it’s fun.”