BY JEFF EVANS Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
There was a lot of frustration the first three games of Preston Hodges' collegiate football career.
The Bakersfield College freshman running back came to BC with plenty of fanfare after an outstanding career at Independence.
BC (1-3) at Canyons (3-1)
When: 6 p.m. today
Where: College of the Canyons
Radio: KERN 1180 AM (pregame 5:30 p.m.)
Series: BC leads 8-5
Last meeting: BC 45, Canyons 7, Sept. 29, 2012
Rankings: Canyons 12th in state, 6th in SoCal; BC receiving votes state, 18th SoCal
But Hodges faced a new challenge, particularly in BC's second and third games against powerhouses Mount San Antonio and Fullerton Colleges.
"It was very humbling," Hodges said.
But it was a different feeling last Saturday when BC hosted Ventura.
Hodges had by far his best game: two touchdowns during a 145-yard, 31-carry performance.
The Renegades, however, dropped their third straight, 24-16, after spotting Ventura a 24-0 halftime lead.
Tonight in Santa Clarita, BC travels to College of the Canyons for a 6 p.m. game. BC is 1-3 overall (0-1 National Northern Conference). Canyons is 3-1 overall and 1-0 in the NNC.
Last Saturday's second-half rally was something BC has used as motivation this week heading into the Canyons game.
"We've had good practices," Hodges said. "We've taken further steps in practice than the previous week."
Hodges certainly felt better personally. He had been held mostly in check through three games, although his 50-yard touchdown run late in the opener vs. Santa Ana put that game away. That remains BC's only win this season.
Ventura's defense wasn't the physical behemouth that BC faced in the Mt. SAC and Fullerton games. And Hodges said the practice reps are also paying off.
"My biggest improvement, I'd say, if following my line, trusting my line more," he said.
Hodges was the fulltime back against Ventura because sophomore Kwame Johnson, a returnee from last season, was not available after suffering a foot injury in the Fullerton game. Johnson had not practiced this week and is out indefinitely while his injury heals.
BC coach Jeff Chudy said Johnson has had a positive influence on Hodges.
"Kwame was a really good guy for Preston because he works really hard and is very dedicated," Chudy said.
"Kwame is working extremely hard trying to get back on the field and hopefully we'll get him back."
Until then, Hodges will get the bulk of the carries.
"It's the situation we're in right now," Chudy said. "Preston is a remarkable kid."
Beyond his football skills, Chudy said Hodges is a unique player because of his personality and dedication.
In Chudy's eyes, Hodges is the perfect Renegade.
"First and foremost, what a quality person he is," Chudy said. "He is a guy who's a great teammate, he works extremely hard, he's a real humble guy and as a coach you know he's extremely coachable and wants to do the right thing. I can't say enough about him. He's a coach's dream."
Thanks to last week's performance, Hodges is now the No. 1 rusher in the NNC with 368 yards.
Good numbers aren't new for Hodges. As the Independence quarterback last season, he threw for 1,187 yards and 14 touchdowns and ran for 1,154 yards and 16 touchdowns. He threw for 955 yards and rushed for 644 yards as a junior.
Hodges' older brother, Bryson, has been a good example for Preston. Bryson Hodges is a senior running back at Humboldt State. Preston laughingly insists he's the better player.
"We have that discussion all the time when he comes down," Preston said. "We watch each other on film and decide from that -- how many tackles we break, how many long runs we had, how many yards we have."
Preston Hodges' immediate goal is to help BC snap its losing streak.
"We need to put the past behind us and let's build toward a better season," he said.