Many Class 3A defenses would say Cordova has had more than its fair share.
It began with Tim Simon, who ran his way to Oxford to play for the Ole Miss Rebels. Then came Ryan Smith who high stepped to Auburn.
This year, Cody Staten served as the centerpiece of Cordova’s backfield.
He filled the position well.
Staten carried the ball 168 times for the Blue Devils, racking up 2,240 hard-earned yards along the way. The senior bruiser bullied his way into the end zone 28 times this year. He was selected as a first-team running back on the 3A, All-State team.
For his relentless efforts and untouchable statistics, Staten has been named as the Daily Mountain Eagle’s Football Player of the Year.
He is the fourth consecutive Cordova player, all running backs, to earn the honor.
“The thing about Cody is that he’s fast, very strong, powerful and low to the ground,” Cordova coach Pete Bush said. “He’s got great balance. There were several times this year where they would wrap him up and he’d bust out of there and go for a long run.
“Ryan was really elusive. Cody’s not like that. He’s more of a powerful back, like Tim. There have been some great running backs come through here and Cody’s right there with them and he’s still got room for improvement.”
A tough running style, mixed with plenty of speed, helped Staten showcase what may have been his biggest strength — consistency.
Staten finished the season with 11 consecutive 100-yard rushing games.
The only time he didn’t eclipse the 100-yard mark was during a season-opening overtime 13-7 victory over the Dora Bulldogs.
He only managed 83 yards in that game, his first ever with the Blue Devils, but did pick up the game-winning six-yard touchdown run.
Following the Dora game, Bush said Staten made a change that affected the running back for the rest of the season.
“We watched that (Dora) film, and after about his third run, he didn’t follow his blocks,” Bush said. “We did a drill (at practice) where he got behind the fullback. He just needed to start following his blocks. After that, it was history.”
Staten rushed for at least 118 yards in the following 11 weeks, eclipsing the 200-yard mark three times and topping 300 yards twice.
Despite the staggering number of yards, Staten had more than 20 carries just twice this season (26 vs. Piedmont and 22 against Hamilton). He had five games with eight or fewer carries, including a 177-yard performance on just six carries against Carbon Hill.
“Cody had several games where he didn’t carry the ball much. If we would have given him the ball more, he would have had 3,000 yards,” Bush said. “The offensive line had a lot to do with his success. Bradley Norris, Theo Werling, Tommy Johnson, Andrew Minor, Kendall Johnson and Josh Pruett — those are the guys that made it possible.”
After transferring to Cordova from Walker during the offseason, Staten helped the Blue Devils to a 10-2 finish and a second-round playoff appearance.
Cordova faced Piedmont in the second round this year in a rematch of the 2009 state championship game.
The Blue Devils battled hard, but fell 28-21 in a heartbreaker.
Staten tried to put the offense on his back, finishing his night with 205 yards rushing and a touchdown on 26 carries after starting quarterback Jake Howton left the game with an injury.
Piedmont coach Steve Smith, who saw plenty of former Cordova running back Ryan Smith in the 2009 state championship game, was equally impressed with Staten’s ability.
“Most of us that had to play Ryan Smith were tickled to death that he was leaving, until we saw Staten play,” Smith said. “Cordova hasn’t missed a beat.”
With Staten in the backfield and Bush at the helm, the Blue Devils didn’t miss a beat.
Bush, who just finished his third season with the Blue Devils, has seen his tailback trio lead the Blue Devils to 34-8 overall record.
He expects that trend to continue.
“Looking back, there haven’t been many running backs who had 2,000 yards in this county and there have been a lot of good running backs come through here,” Bush added. “The thing about Cody is that he’s a great kid. He’s really respectful and he does what you ask him to do. Toward the end of the season, he started to become a leader for us. He had a good year and he’s only going to get better.”