The Cobras have little to fall back on except the hope that a new coach will usher in a new tradition.
By JAMAL THALJI
Published September 3, 2004
HUDSON - It's easy to count up all the milestones in Hudson football history.
There have been so few.
In 29 years the Cobras have had five winning seasons, played in three bowl games and made one playoff appearance. That was in 1979. The last winning record, 6-4, was in 1986. The last non-losing season, 5-5, was in 1999.
So as his tenure begins new coach Mark Nash knows exactly what he's up against. He knows the history he has to fight. And he doesn't care.
"My expectations are to make the playoffs," he said. "I don't have a three-year plan or a two-year plan. I think we can be competitive with anybody we play with. We've got speed, we've got size up front, we've got experience.
"So there's no excuses why we can't play with anybody."
The Cobras return a talented core, one that set its own milestones in last season's 4-6 effort. Hudson scored 50 or more points twice, a first. One of those wins, a 56-34 homecoming thrashing of Zephyrhills, ended the west side's three-year, 52-game losing streak to the east. The 2003 team rolled up 2,000 rushing yards.
But that team also saw a messy divorce between former coach Terry Voyles and the administration, a divide exacerbated by parent and player conflicts.
The task of bringing the team, and the program, back together was assigned to Nash when he was promoted from offensive coordinator. Now the Cobras are unified behind a new coach, a new multiple offense and a new 4-6 defense.
"We just need to come together and stop arguing," running back Nathan Toole said. "We just need to stop making the mistakes of the past."
Fewer mistakes are expected of quarterback Kyle Hatcher, who started last year as a sophomore. Athletically gifted, Hatcher (recovering after injuring his left non-throwing hand in a lawnmower accident) must take the next mental step, Nash said.
"Physically he can run it, he can throw it, he's smart, he's intelligent," the coach said. "The part of Kyle that is critical to us being successful is his maturity and leadership."
Out of the backfield Nash can throw two weapons at foes: Toole is a fleet-footed bruiser, while Tommy Snow could go all the way every time he runs or catches the ball. The two combined for 1,500 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. If junior Vince Ferlita is able to play after shoulder surgery, Snow could move to receiver.
The 6-foot-1 Andrew Collins chose not to play last year. Now at receiver, Nash calls him "arguably one of the top two athletes in the school." Junior varsity promotion Eric Geckas is solid, and both give Hatcher targets he didn't have last year.
But it is the line that could be the best offensive unit. Returning are strong tackle Robert Allen, strong guard Justin Brown, center Allen Wynn and quickside guard Brian Zullo.
Brown will anchor the defense at nose guard and Allen and Wynn will rotate in at tackles. Bolstering a formidable line is a newcomer, 6-5, 270-pound junior Emanuel Fenech. Toole returns to linebacker, where he will be joined by JV promotion Matt Edelman. Snow gives the defense a top cover corner. The other corner is Texas transfer Ryan Attaway and Royce Simonds is back at safety.
But the Cobras have had talent in the past, too. How does a team buck its own history?
"Obviously we've got to come together," Nash said. "Which is a cliche, but true. You've got to learn how to win a game and not just try not to lose a game, and that's a learning process."