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High Schools | Eric Sondheimer

It Takes the Right Wing Man

November 17, 2001|Eric Sondheimer

Alan Eberhart and Dennis Gossard were comfortable with full-house backfields, double tight ends and three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust football.

"There isn't an offensive line coach in America that wants to throw the ball," Gossard said. "It's a manhood thing."

Eberhart, coach at Crescenta Valley High, and Gossard, his offensive coordinator, decided to make a pact with the football devil. They scrapped their running game and went to an all-out passing offense three years ago.

"You say try it and gradually let go," Eberhart said.

By coincidence, Gossard's son, Hudson, had just joined the program as a freshman quarterback when the turnover began in 1998. By the time Hudson reached the varsity level last season, Eberhart and Gossard were ready to take their passing scheme a step further.

They let Hudson run the spread offense out of a shotgun formation, with occasional handoffs to running backs. He passed for 2,701 yards and 31 touchdowns.

This season, the coaching staff has really gone mad. The Falcons pass on almost every play with five receivers and no backs. Their run plays are mostly shovel passes.

Hudson, who is 5 feet 8 and 157 pounds, has led the Falcons to an 11-0 record after passing for 369 yards and five touchdowns in a 55-21 first-round playoff victory Friday over Littlerock. He had completed 70% of his passes for 2,967 yards and 27 touchdowns in the regular season.

The passing game has become the great equalizer for a program that doesn't have many players who are tall or big. But they are athletic, love to get dirty, never stop trying and would follow their tiny quarterback up a mountain if that's what he told them to do.

"He has such a great presence and awareness of the offense," Eberhart said. "It's gotten to the point kids don't always need to know where to go because Hudson tells them. He has total command. It's amazing how much the kids think he's going to get it done. They believe in him so much."

The coaching staff teases Hudson with taunts of, "Hud for Heisman." Eberhart jokes about Hudson receiving so many media requests for interviews "that I feel more like his agent than his coach."

His father has coached for 32 years, from junior college to high school. There was no grand scheme to switch the offense just because his son was a quarterback. But there's no doubt that father and son are having the time of their lives.

"I'm very proud of him," Dennis said.

Added Hudson: "We've become more than father-son. It's like a friendship now. He seems to me like a big brother. I can talk to him about anything."

Hudson has been constantly underestimated because of his size, but the respect he has gained this season is well-deserved. He lost most of his receivers from last season's 10-2 team. It ended with an emotional 28-23 defeat to eventual Division III champion Newhall Hart.

The Falcons spent all summer developing their new group of receivers. One of the few returnees, Dan Moody, became a standout. Through 10 games this season, no team has been able to stop the Falcons' passing attack.

"It's awesome," Hudson said. "A lot of people doubted us because we're small. We're having a great time."

Hudson looks more like a surfer than a football player with his blond hair, blue eyes and preference for shorts and sandals. He has a 3.5 grade-point average along with impeccable leadership skills.

But his best quarterback qualities are his vision and fearlessness. Once the ball is hiked, Hudson is able to focus more on his receivers than the charging pass rushers.

Opponents know the Falcons are going to pass, which allows them to initiate an all-out blitz. In a game against La Canada, Hudson was sacked 10 times. But the Falcons still won, 34-0, because Hudson's toughness and decision-making won out.

Someone should examine how many quarterbacks are under care of a sports psychologist for nightmares associated with the many hits they take from charging defensive players.

Big games bring out the best in Hudson. He's 4-1 against quarterbacks who have received NCAA Division I-A scholarships. He has beaten Brigham Young-bound Ben Olson of Thousand Oaks twice. He knocked off UCLA's John Sciarra last season when Sciarra played for La Canada St. Francis. He triumphed over Arizona-bound Ryan O'Hara of Pasadena Muir. The only one to defeat him was Hart's Kyle Matter, now at Stanford.

"I'm amazed in big games, his calmness and ability to perform well," Dennis said.

When the Southern Section playoff pairings were announced, Crescenta Valley was seeded No. 4 in Division III behind Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, Hart and Manhattan Beach Mira Costa. It's right where the pass-happy Falcons want to be.

"We love the fact we're the underdog," Hudson said.

*

Eric Sondheimer can be reached at eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

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