Heritage Hills' Rodgers rises from the ashes

Kaiti Sullivan/The Herald
Phoenix Rodgers and Heritage Hills are one win away from a sectional championship. 

By COREY STOLZENBACH
sports@dcherald.com

Phoenix Rodgers went over to Jordan Mitchell after the latter dropped a pass in Heritage Hills’ Nov. 1 sectional semifinal against Gibson Southern.

Rodgers said Mitchell was getting down on himself for that pass that he dropped, and the Titans held a 13-point lead on the Patriots (11-0) at one point. However, Heritage Hills was rallying to avoid having its season end at the hands of Gibson Southern for the second season in a row. The senior approached the junior as the Pats were in the midst of their comeback.

“I’m just telling him that it’s in the past,” Rodgers said. “‘Don’t worry about it. Keep playing football. Get it out of your head.’”

Rodgers said he saw a change in the way Mitchell played after that, and was proud he put that dropped pass behind him. The two of them, along with the rest of the Pats, got their revenge from 2018 with a 21-20 comeback win. Senior Jacob Wetzel blocked what would’ve been a walkoff field goal for the Titans.

He said he did not see Wetzel block the kick because a guard and tackle were on him. Rodgers did not know what happened until he heard his teammates jumping around and he saw the football on the ground.

Rodgers would like to say there was never any doubt there wouldn’t be a repeat of 2018, though he’s sure that there was doubt.

Heritage Hills entered the sectional semifinal with a 10-0 record last year, just as it did this year. The Pats got the better of the Titans in the regular season, just as they did this year, but they could not replicate that result, and they were eliminated with a 24-14 loss. That defeat gave Rodgers and his teammates fuel for the 2019 season.

“It was really frustrating for us having such a successful season and having the team that we did,” he said. “We really expected for us to go further than what we did. It was definitely a bitter taste in our mouths.”

Rodgers said the feeling the Pats got from that loss helped them work through the summer to be better than what they were. He said the team did a lot of sprint work and calisthenics. Rodgers said Heritage Hills put a lot of trust in lifting coach Adam Zollman to get as strong as possible in the weight room.

He has played his part in helping Heritage Hills get to Friday’s sectional championship against Southridge. Rodgers plays running back on offense, and has racked up 488 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns on 76 carries. Some of his most notable regular-season performances came against the Titans and Raiders. The Pats fed Rodgers 20 times for 133 yards and three scores in their 49-14 Sept. 27 triumph against Gibson Southern. He ran the ball six times for two touchdowns and 84 yards in a 42-7 Oct. 4 win against Southridge. Rodgers had his longest run in the latter game at 67 yards.

Rodgers plays inside linebacker on defense, and leads the team in tackles. He has racked up 61 solo tackles, 40 assisted, four tackles for a loss, an interception and a fumble recovery thus far.

He sees himself as a leader by example by flying to the football, running the ball hard and blocking hard.

Football isn’t the only sport Rodgers excels in. He made it to semi-state in wrestling as part of the 182-pound class last year. Heritage Hills sent the graduated Aidian Rea to state, and Rodgers thinks he can get to state in his own right this year. He said he’s bitter about losing at semi-state in wrestling last year, just like he was about losing to Gibson Southern at sectionals in 2018. Rodgers believes he can separate himself from the competition due to his hard work and dedication to wrestling.

He doesn’t see himself playing football in college, but would love to wrestle at the next level because he thinks he’s a better wrestler than he is a football player. The 5-foot-10, 200-pound Rodgers said his size would help out a wrestling team better than it would a football team at the collegiate level. He said he has talked to Wabash College and the University of Indianapolis on wrestling at the next level

The senior running back and linebacker wants to study nursing for his higher education. Rodgers said he was thinking about nursing during his freshman year, and loves how the human body works. He said he has drawn inspiration from his mother, Lisa, a certified nursing assistant. Rodgers said he likes hearing the stories she has on the profession. He said she has advised him to work hard and stay on top of his studies.

“I just feel like it’d be a great career path for me,” Rodgers said of nursing.




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