Watch out for Rangers’ linebacker — he loves to hit

Mark Griffin

There are two kinds of football players in this world. There are those who generally get hit (offense) and those who do most of the hitting (defense).
Tyler Hughes, a 5-foot-10, 215-pound senior at Northwood, does both, but he prefers to do the latter.
“A guard was pulling and it was a wide-open hole and I tackled the quarterback,” said Hughes, an inside linebacker, about one of his best plays this season. “That was against Edon last week. It was a pretty solid hit and I made a really good read. I put a pretty good lick on him.”
Hughes earned first-team All-Toledo Area Athletic Conference honors last season as the second-leading tackler (80 stops) for the Rangers, who won the TAAC championship. He also hit nearly .400 as an outfielder for Northwood’s baseball team last spring.
Football, however, is his first love and he prefers playing defense over offense.
“Definitely football,” Hughes said. “There’s something about hitting somebody really hard that makes me love it.”
Coach Ken James has used Hughes, a three-year starter, some at fullback and H-back this season and Hughes has responded with two catches for 23 yards and one carry for 19 yards. Northwood’s offense was averaging 46.5 points per game during a 4-0 start (1-0 TAAC) after last Friday’s 52-12 rout of Edon.
“He hasn’t had a lot of plays on offense,” James said, “but when he’s been in, he’s been productive. We do offense by committee, so he hasn’t had to play a whole lot of offense.”
Hughes leads the Rangers in tackles, with 39 solo stops and 12 assists, and he has six tackles for loss and one sack. He also blocked a punt that led to Demond Marks’ touchdown against Woodmore in the opener. During games, Hughes calls out the defense alongside junior inside linebacker A.J. Rable (24 tackles), who also starts at right tackle.
James said Hughes is usually on point when it comes to reading his keys at and behind the line of scrimmage.
“He reacts quickly and he’s confident in what he’s seeing,” James said. “He’s quick, especially in a tight space, and he does a lot of little things and takes good angles. Some guys can make a lot of tackles, but they’re making them five yards downfield. He’s getting a fair amount of his tackles in the backfield or for short games.”
Hughes, who started out as an outside linebacker, said he’s gained about 15 pounds since last season, his first at inside linebacker. Two of his individual goals entering this season were to make 100 tackles and earn first-team all-conference honors. He said he is a better player than he was a year ago.
“Probably just in knowing the situations,” he said. “Watching film is a big thing, like seeing what they’re doing on first-and-10 and second-and-long, or knowing what their quarterback is doing in the pocket. That’s probably my biggest improvement since last year.”
James said Hughes’ football IQ was on display in the Rangers’ 52-40 win over Elmwood.
“There was a screen pass where we (coaches) were watching a screen develop and we were like, ‘Oh, no!’ ” James said. “We noticed their linemen release and the kid catches it and Tyler tackles him right away. There have been more than one of those this year, where you think somebody’s going to break a run and he tackles them at the line of scrimmage. He’s been real adept at filling the right running lanes.”
James added that Hughes, a team captain, isn’t the flashiest player, “but he’s pretty entertaining when you get to know him.”
“He’s not a life-of-the-party guy and he doesn’t get fazed by much,” the coach said. “We anticipated he was going to be good when he was little. We figured he’s a kid who likes the violent part of the game. He’s strong and he loves contact. We love guys like that. He does a lot of things that don’t show up on the stat sheet.”
Hughes, who plans to be a realtor down the road, said he likes the Rangers’ team chemistry and he isn’t hesitant to praise his teammates.
“We have kind of a bit of everything,” he said. “Our quarterback (Jay Moten) is super fast and makes good reads. The receivers do their thing, and they are super fast and they run good routes. On the defensive side, we’re super smart. Watching film is a big thing for us, seeing tendencies of what teams are going to do. Our team is very well-rounded.
“After going 9-2 last year, we knew we were going to be pretty good,” Hughes added. “We had to keep it going in the offseason, and this is the result. We’re trying to get into the (Division V) playoffs. The TAAC championship is our man goal, but getting into the playoffs is a big thing.”


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