First-year Hough High football coach Matthew Jenkins has high praise for 18-year-old senior Jarrett Nagy.
Nagy, who is 5-foot-8 and 195 pounds, leads the Huskies in rushing (789 yards, 10 touchdowns) and is second in tackles at middle linebacker (47 total, one behind team leader Tyus Fields)
“He’s the heart and soul for who we are as a program,” Jenkins said. “He’s that kid that coaches (talk about) all the time - ‘If we had 11 of that guy.’ He’s a tremendous athlete. He’s got a will to succeed that far exceeds most high school kids I’ve dealt with. At the end of the day, how he goes is how our team goes - on both sides of the football.”
And lately, Nagy and his teammates are trending north.
The Huskies (5-2, 3-0 I-MECK 4A) have won five straight to find themselves tied with unbeaten Mallard Creek (7-0, 3-0) and North Mecklenburg (7-0, 3-0) for first place in the conference. Hough plays at North Mecklenburg Friday night, looking to beat its rival for the seventh straight season.
North is off to its best start since 1992 and feels good about ending the streak. For Nagy, though, he said this is just another game.
“I treat every game the same,” Nagy said. “I practice the same and I work just as hard every week. Yes, we have history with them and have had hard games with them, but it’s just another game when it comes down to it. You go down there and you play football.”
Nagy and the Huskies began the season ranked in the top 10 of the Observer’s Sweet 16 poll. But the season began with upset losses to Harding and Providence - helped along by two potential game-winning touchdown drops against Harding and a painful interception return for a score against Providence. By Week 4, however, Jenkins said the Huskies began catching on to the system he implemented, using multiple formations and passing more often.
Hough scored 28 points in the second half of a 35-23 win over Ardrey Kell. In the next three games, Hough has outscored opponents 158-38.
Of course, in the middle of all that has been Nagy.
He helped the Huskies overcome a 13-0 deficit in the Ardrey Kell win, running for a school-record 274 yards and two touchdowns on 33 carries. Nagy had nine tackles on defense. Two weeks later, he ran for three touchdowns in a 45-10 win over Mooresville.
And as Hough junior quarterback Kennique Bonner-Steward - playing his first season as a starter - has grown more comfortable, the Huskies have steadily improved. Bonner-Steward threw for 242 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 115 yards and another score in last week’s 62-20 win over Lake Norman.
Nagy touched the ball 10 times, averaging nearly 10 yards each time he ran with it.
Suddenly, Hough is the playoff-calibre team Jenkins envisioned last summer.
“I think you have to be able to throw the ball when you want to throw the ball,” said Jenkins, a former college assistant at Penn State and Cornell. “We’ve got good receivers ... and with somebody like Nagy inside, the combination of the ability to spread the ball horizontally and (pass it) vertically has opened up the run game for Jarrett.”
Jenkins said Nagy runs a 4.7-second 40-yard dash and doesn’t have prototypical major-college size, but he said Nagy has something special that coaches can’t measure.
“There’s not a ton of college coaches calling for a 5-8 running back with 4-7 speed,” Jenkins said of Nagy, who has a 4.6 grade-point average. “But he’s a great high school player and as I explained to his dad, he can walk on (in college) anywhere in the country. And if it’s not an Alabama or a Clemson but a middle tier school, I think he works his way onto the field. ...
“He makes plays and he knows what’s going on. Nagy gets better the more carries he gets. He’s one of those guys who as the game continues, he gets better. As everybody gets tired, he never gets tired. So if you want to hit him, well, you better bring it.”