Mark and Luke Hodson share more than a last name.
First there is the family connection. Mark Hodson is Luke’s uncle. Mark was the last South Whidbey High School head football coach; Luke is the next.
Both played college football at Pacific Lutheran University under a coach Westering.
Mark played for Frosty Westering; Luke was coached by Frosty’s son, Scott.
And both Hodsons share the philosophy that high school football should be an enjoyable experience and not a grind.
Luke Hodson, who will replace Mark has the head coach this next football season, said he hopes his players “have the time of their lives” competing in the Falcon program.
Mark Hodson coached the Falcons from 2001-13 and from 2017-19. During his first stint, he coached Luke, a 2009 graduate. After the 2013 season Mark Hodson stepped down to spend more time with his family. Over the next three seasons, the program went into a tailspin, winning only three games.
Mark Hodson returned to the helm in 2017 to help revive the program and flag wavering community support. He did just that, leading the Falcons to three winning seasons.
With the program back on track, he stepped aside once again, this time turning the reins over to Luke.
Luke Hodson spent his youth in Wheaton, Ill., before moving to South Whidbey when he was a junior. While in high school, he played football and baseball for four years and basketball for two. He found success as a Falcon, earning first-team, all-league honors in both football and baseball in each of his two years at South Whidbey.
Luke Hodson went on to play wide receiver and tight end for Pacific Lutheran University. His father, Jeff, played baseball for four years at Greenville College in Illinois.
Mark and Jeff Hodson grew up on a farm in Asotin in Eastern Washington.
“My uncle and my father both had huge impacts on my life, and I respect and admire both of them to the highest extent,” Luke Hodson said. “I was very fortunate to have such solid role models growing up.”
This will be Luke Hodson’s first high school head coaching position. In addition to being on the offensive coordinator on last year’s football staff, he has been a high school assistant basketball coach and youth football and baseball coach.
Luke Hodson said he wanted the head football position “because I got something out of football and I want to give back to the young people who choose to play this sport on this beautiful island.”
“For me, life-long friendships and deep bonds were forged on the football field,” he added. “Football is where I learned what hard work and sacrifice for a cause greater than yourself meant. More than anything, though, I just freakin’ love football.”
His desire as a head coach is for his athletes to discover that “it’s fun to push yourself and compete.”
In addition, he hopes his players remember lessons learned “through hardships on the practice and game field” and come to cherish the friendships they developed more than game scores or season records.
Hodson would like his athletes to gain confidence and respect, learn to balance intensity and composure, and display sportsmanship.
Also, he will stress the importance of academics: “I believe students are students first, athletes second.”
On the field, Hodson wants his athletes to play and practice at a high tempo and intensity level.
“I think being able to control the tempo in a game means that everyone needs to be on the same page so the plays don’t get blown up,” he said. “I want to make sure everyone understands what we are doing before we move forward to the next teaching point.”
Because of COVID-19, Hodson’s head-coaching debut won’t come until next spring.
“Coronavirus is a thorn in everyone’s side,” he said. “We are fortunate enough to be able to start getting together, but the restrictions don’t really allow us to have a true football practice.
“We will do temperature and symptom checks upon each athlete’s arrival and will have periodic times between drills where players hydrate and coaches sanitize. Coaches wear masks the entire practice, and players must wear masks when they are closer than six feet apart.
“The toughest part for the athletes is all the updates, changes and uncertainty. They want to play so bad, and it’s very tough on athletes of all sports not knowing if they will get that opportunity.”
Hodson will also be breaking in an all new coaching staff. He will be assisted by Travis Tornga, James Jones, Cory Soto and Jordan White-Frisbee.
The interruption, however, has a plus, he said. The Falcons lost 17 players to graduation, and the delay will allow his young team to become more physically mature before the season starts.
Luke Hodson, 29, teaches special education at South Whidbey Elementary School.