Cougars’ Hood, defense improve each outing

With all due respect to the rest of its ME-GA 7 3A/4A conference competition, there’s a reason the Charlotte Catholic football team frontloads its schedule with teams such as South Mecklenburg, Providence and Charlotte Country Day.

Since 2004, the Cougars have lost just one game against a league opponent (2009 against Olympic), which leaves the early part of their yearly slate to provide the most seasoning. However, Catholic coach Jim Oddo said this week’s visitor, East Gaston, will provide a “big test” with its Veer-based offense.

“They’re a good football team,” Oddo said. “They do a lot of things that are hard to defend. If you can catch one of those teams at the beginning of the year before they can get all that stuff (into their game plan), it’s a lot easier than catching them at the end when everything is rolling.”

East Gaston is riding a two-game win streak and has averaged 39 points in that stretch, but the Cougar defense is allowing just 14 points per game and has held three of its opponents to seven points or fewer.

“We had a lot of kids (on defense at the beginning of the year) that didn’t have experience, and now they’re about to figure it out,” Oddo said. “They’re getting better and they’re going to have to, because the competition is about to get stiffer here shortly.”

Of course, it always helps to have an offensive weapon such as junior running back Elijah Hood, who’s rumbled for 1,488 yards and 25 touchdowns on just 112 carries – good for 13.3 yards per carry.

Hood recently was named to a list of the top 300 high school junior prospects in the country by ESPN.com, and Oddo believes Hood should continue to improve as the season wears on.

“When I look at film, it’s hard to believe what he’s doing,” Oddo said. “He’s taking (defenders) who have perfect form and just rolling them. His strength and his power are almost unbelievable. A lot of times we’ll get him four or five yards and up comes a safety or a corner(back), and he just runs over them.

“He’s been the difference in about half of the games. He makes the difference, he really does.”

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