NEWARK — It was a new beginning for first-year Cedar Ridge Timberwolves head football coach Maison Hudgeons.
The Texas native who played his high school football at 2A powerhouse James Bowie High School. Hudgeons played college football at Southern Arkansas University before coaching in Texas. Hudgeons was an assistant for the Gurdon Go-Devils for three years under the direction of head coach Kyle Jackson.
“A lot of stuff I do when I build a program is based on what he does,” Hudgeons said. “He runs a great program at Gurdon. He made them into what they are today. I learned so much from him and some of the things I do, I base on what I saw him do.”
The last time the Timberwolves made the playoffs was in 2017 under the coaching direction of Danny Brustrom. Cedar Ridge lost to Oceola in the first round. Since then, the football numbers have dropped it has been sort of a revolving door for coaches over the past five years.
Hudgeons, who has plans to bring a Texas-style of football to the Timberwolves, isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
“This is my third year here and my first as head football coach,” Hudgeons said. “Just by the numbers we had coming up, it was best for us to go to eight-man football. That way we could try to get our numbers back and this year was good to us.
“We had struggled a little bit, because they had a new head coach four out o the last five years,” he continued. “They have had a lot of changes over the last couple of years and now we are trying to get over the lack of culture.”
The main obstacle that Hudgeons and his staff faced was the mentality of football at the school.
“We battled that this season and lost to some teams who had more players and were established programs, where we are trying to build it,” he said. “We had one senior, two juniors and the rest were sophomores and freshman. We started from scratch and the move to eight-man helped with that.”
As far as regular high school football rules, there is no difference in the eight-man game. The main difference is eight-man football is played on an 80-yard field that is 40-yards across.
“We are the only school that has a regulation field,” Hudgeons said. “We moved the goal posts up. but the biggest challenge was not having those three guys on offense or defense. You have to have a bend-don’t break mentality on defense and if something does go wrong, there is nothing you could do without those extra guys. Offensively, it was more fun to call. We ran the Power I stack offense and we will run it right at you, but we don’t have that guy to cover the middle or if we move him to the middle we don’t have anybody on the outside. Defense is a test of patience.”
This year under Hudgeons’ direction, the Timberwolves beat Midland in a conference game 26-0 and Decatur to qualify for the eight-man state football playoffs. Cedar Ridge traveled to Strong-Huttig in far south-central Arkansas near the Louisiana border for the first round.
“it was great to get started,” Hudgeons said. “We talked to the guys when I came in and we set a goal to make the playoffs this year. The kids came to us and said they wanted to earn our way and they did it.”
Freshman quarterback Aiden Jones led the Timberwolves offense with Daniel Dunn, Jonathan Gonzalez, Jace McNeil, Ayden Sober and Tucker Hutchinson as the runners. Jayden Hoofman, Dalton Campbell, Jon Dubreville, William Easley and Ayden Lovell were tight end receivers or blockers. And the Timberwolves offensive line averaged 6-2 and 290 pounds with Keithen Dunn, Nick Prodan, Wyatt Northcutt, Dylan Brashers, Ethan Hall and Mason Barnett in the trenches.
“Our quarterback and tailback did a wonderful job,” Hudgeons said. “It was the lack of experience that held us back a little bit. We figured out what it best and the stacked I was probably going to be our bread and butter. We have some big kids and some smaller quicker tailbacks. We have fullbacks who will run over you, so once we found that we had more success and the kids had a little more fun. For the whole season, that was the driving force. They fought their way to win one of the conference games and it was a battle, but they won it and earned their way to the playoffs.”
Cedar Ridge defeated Decatur to earn a first-round spot in the state playoffs.
“Our goal is to win that first playoff game,” Hudgeons said. “As far as I know that hasn’t been done here. And of course we want to take the state, but we are going to keep it to what we can control. They learned with the Strong game that we needed to be a higher seed. They want to make history and win a playoff game.”