Senior football captains approach final playoff run


Jensen Abhau and Dylan Saunooke, Reporters

Seniors Xach Gill and Darius Hodge are approaching the end of their storied careers in familiar territory, the NCHSAA football playoffs.

Both defensemen face off against a familiar foe, the Heritage Huskies Friday for a rematch with their conference rivals.

The Cougars topped the Huskies 26 to 13 Oct. 13 on their first meeting.

Gill and Hodge’s journeys to this point began through the strong influence of others.

Gill’s older brother inspired him to start playing football.

“I saw him playing, and I wanted to be like him,” Gill said.

Hodge’s inspiration came from another source.

“My grandfather, he got me into it and I started playing it because he told me I should start playing,” Hodge said.

From an early age, both Hodge and Gill pursued their football careers. Hodge started playing in the sixth grade. Gill started in third grade playing for the Wake Forest Bulldogs.

Hodge leads the team in tackles with 233 and interceptions with 10.

One interception led to Hodge’s favorite memory thus far this season.

Hodge’s favorite game was against Wakefield and was a turning point in his career.

“It was home,” Hodge said, “I caught a pick-six, and it was 97 yards.”

Hodge, who has committed to NCSU, was also honored as the fall season male athlete at the Nov. 15 banquet.

He admits he has admired his teammate Gill and has enjoyed their long history together.

Hodge was always impressed by Gill because of his skill on and off the field.

“We played together in middle school and elementary school, and we said we would go to the same college, so it was good that we played together in high school,” Hodge said.

Hodge’s long-term goal was to transcend the career of the average football player.

“My goal was to be good in high school and go get recruited to go to college,” Hodge said, “and I did achieve my goal.”

Gill has amassed several honors in his career. He currently leads the team in sacks with 22.

He was also named the 2015 cap-8 defense player of the year and selected to play in the Army All American Bowl on Jan. 7 2017.

Still, with all those accolades, Gill seeks to fulfill two goals.

“It was to win the state championship and of course get into college and play.”

Gill has multiple division 1 offers including UNC, ECLA, and Ole Miss.

He is always looking to improve mentally and physically.

As they look to stop a Husky attack that has scored 42 points in the first two rounds of the playoffs, Gill and Hodge will need to rely on their experience and work ethic to win.

Gill said, “I’m going to bust my butt and work hard.”