Canadian senior running back Hayze Hufstedler (21) has become a mainstay on the Wildcats varsity roster since his freshman year. [John Moore/ Press Pass Sports]
Four-year players are a rarity at the high school football level. There has to be a special intangible a head coach sees to trust putting a 14 or 15-year old in a game to compete on the field with experienced juniors and seniors.
To this day Canadian Head Coach Chris Koetting never hesitated calling up running back Hayze Hufstedler off JV midway through his freshman year in 2017.
“We had an injury in our backfield that year,” said Koetting, who is 136-18 in 11 seasons as Canadian’s Head Coach. “We didn’t really have another option so we called Hayze up and he jumped right in. You could just see he was going to be something special.”
Koetting’s hunch on Hufstedler was dead on. Fast forward to today, and Koetting will tell you that Hufstedler is one of the best he’s coached in his time at Canadian.
“He can run past you, he can run through you, and he can juke you” Koetting said about Hufstedler. “He’s extremely fast, and can score anytime he has the ball. I also think he’s just a good as a receiver as he is a running back. He has incredible hands.”
Hufstedler learned how to be a gritty, hard-nosed player by watching his brother Holton before him. Holton, who played for the Wildcats from 2013-2016, was a starting linebacker on Canadian’s back-to-back state championship teams in 2014-2015. Hufstedler always wanted to follow in his brothers footsteps, and is filling those shoes proudly everyday.
“Holton has always been a big influence on me,” Hufstedler said. “He still comes to games and we talk a lot. He likes to watch my Hudl films and coach me up.”
The humble, quiet, yet agressive bulldozer on the field has now cemented his own legacy in a Wildcat uniform over the past four seasons. Hufstedler, standing 5-foot-10, 175 pounds, has been a durable mainstay in the Canadian backfield playing in 46 games, totaling 417 carries for 3,634 yards rushing with 59 touchdowns. He’s also caught 58 passes for 756 yards with another six TDs.
What stands out about Hufstedler as impressive as he’s been in is career is he’ll never showboat, or be the one to tell anybody about his performances.
Week in and week out he goes about his business, leaving it all on the field, while making opponents defenses shaking their heads at what just happened.
“I love watching him run,” Canadian quarterback Joshua Culwell said. “He’s a patient running back, he has great vision and can find a hole anywhere. He has unbelievable speed. He’s definitely a fun player to watch out for on any down of the game.”
What’s even more incredible is the stats he putting up this season in limited action due to the beatings the No. 1-ranked Wildcats in have been dishing out the past month. Hufstedler has been pulled at halftime of those blowouts but has still rushed for 811 yards on the year on 67 carries, averaging 12.1 yards per carry with 16 touchdowns.
“It’s been weird only playing two quarters a game,” Hufstedler said. “But I understand it.
I feel we’re playing great right now, and it’s how we’re practicing. Our coaches are amazing at getting us ready each week and preparing us.“
Like all seniors come to face, Hufstedler had the bitter, sweet night of suiting out for the final time at Wildcats Stadium during Canadian’s 70-0 rout of Tulia last Friday. For any senior the goal is to leave a lasting memory the best you can. Hufstedler did just that in front of his hometown, rushing for 88 yards on only nine carries with three TDs. A moment he won’t soon forget.
“It’s been great playing for Canadian,” Hufstedler said,” Hufstedler said, “It was sad playing our final home game, but we just wanted to show out and win one more time in front of our great fans.”
Hufstedler is far from done. November is when he likes to turn it up another level. Canadian (8–1, 5-0) will face Childress (7-1, 4-1) for a chance to win an outright seventh straight district title at 7 p.m. Friday night at Fair Park Stadium. Then it’s on to Hufstedler’s favorite time of year. The University Interscholastic League Texas High School Football Playoffs.
“We love district but I get get really excited going into the playoffs,” Hufstedler said. “I’ve been lucky to be on teams in my career that have played a lot of playoff games. It’s just a different level knowing each game could be your last.”