Donald Hudson and Christopher Columbus have something in common.
Yep. That's right. Cross Creek's quarterback and the famed explorer have both taken hopeful souls to a brand new world.
"I wish the year never would have ended," Hudson said. "I never saw all this coming. This season was like Christmas morning and getting the gift you wanted as a child. It was what everyone at Cross Creek wanted."
The Augusta Chronicle's All-Area Georgia Player of the Year was the only honoree on the 2005 teams that didn't win a state championship.
Instead, he gave his program the right to start dreaming about championships. Champions have to be winners first. Cross Creek could never say that. Not until this year.
Hudson, who ran or threw for 70 percent of all the yards the team gained on offense, led the Razorbacks to plenty of firsts: Homecoming game victory, winning season and playoff berth.
That's a lot of new twists and turns. Columbus might have gotten lost on Hudson's trip.
"Donald led us in everything he could lead us in," Cross Creek coach Kevin Hunt said. "Meetings. On the field to touchdowns. Stats. Big plays. Weight room. Attitude. Work ethic. Anything you could ask or didn't have to ask of him.
"And we couldn't have had a nicer kid leading us. I've been coaching for more than 20 years and Donald is one of the top five kids I've ever had the pleasure to coach. Easy."
Hudson fires off the appropriate "sirs" and "thank-you's" as easily as he piled up 2,227 yards and 22 scores this year.
"Donald came up to me a couple of times this year when I guess it looked like I was feeling down and asked me if I was OK," Hunt said. "It was a sincere 'Are you doing OK today, coach?' A couple of times this year. I can tell you not many kids even think of asking something like that these days. Much less ask. But that's the way Donald is. He's a genuine kind and sincere person who just also happens to be a great athlete."
During one four-game stretch that propelled the Razorbacks into the playoffs, the Cross Creek offense totaled 1,251 yards and 17 touchdowns. Hudson accounted for 1,123 of those yards and 14 of those scores.
That's 90 percent of the yards and 82 percent of the touchdowns.
"Take him off our team, and we might have won two of our six wins all year," Hunt said. "It would have been like taking Mike Vick off the Falcons or Donovan McNabb off the Philadelphia Eagles. He was our catalyst and our heart and soul. Our other good players kept us in games and kept us close. Donald won them on offense."
The plays he made against Thomson stand out despite a loss. Hudson threw for 264 yards and four touchdown passes against the best defense he saw during the regular season.
"That night was great," Hudson said. "We went on the field for the coin toss, and a couple of players from Thomson said we didn't even belong on the same field with them. They were right. Up (until) after that game that night.
"We proved we belonged going up on those boys 21-7 before they came back to win. We did that against a very good football team. Even though we lost, we made a statement about the new direction of our team with that game."
Hudson continued pointing the way, leading the team with standout performances in tight region games against Harlem and Hephzibah with the playoffs clearly in sight and on the line.
"Playing quarterback is about being patient and trusting teammates," Hudson said. "I like Mike Vick a lot. I wish I could run like he does. He's great. But he's not a quarterback. I had to try to be like Peyton Manning. Peyton looks to get his entire offense in the game and depends on the guys around him. That's what my team needed. ... To me, that's what playing quarterback is all about."
Reach Jeff Sentell at (706) 823-3425 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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