Soldotna running back Simpson does not let defense have monopoly on hard hits

Punishment -- it's better to give than receive

Posted: Tuesday, September 18, 2001

It's not surprising to find out that Cason Simpson's football idol is Eddie George, the big, punishing running back for the Tennessee Titans of the National Football League.

"If there's no hole, he makes his own," Simpson said of George's running style.

Simpson does a fair impression of George for the Soldotna High School football team. In six games this season, the 6-foot, 190-pound running back has carried the ball 139 times for 611 yards in the Stars' double-wing offense. Simpson averages 4.4 yards per carry and has scored six touchdowns.

"The normal thing is for the defense to bring the punishment," Simpson said. "(When I have the ball) I like to punish people on defense when they don't expect it."

What may come as a surprise is Simpson's choice of role models.

"It's my little sister (Erin)," Simpson said. "She's always happy, and she's always trying to make the people around her happy. She'll put herself out to help you out."

That's a philosophy Simpson has taken to heart: in Soldotna's game against Skyview, Simpson carried the ball 36 times for 190 yards after coach Sarge Truesdell told the Stars they would be riding Simpson's shoulders that day.

He got the ball just as much this weekend against the Homer Mariners, though he had a much tougher go of it, gaining just 91 yards in Soldotna's first Northern Lights Conference loss of the season.

"We have five seniors, and we've gotta ride the ones we have," Truesdell said. "He would've taken the ball 20 more times if we had given it to him.

"He was an all-conference outside linebacker last year -- we can't afford to have him off the field at any time. Never once did he complain about being tired or ask to take a play off. He's the epitome of leadership."

Talk about putting himself out to help his teammates.

Some of that drive is inspired by another younger sibling. Ricky Simpson, a junior running back and defensive back for the Stars, keeps his older brother focused.

"We bring the game home a lot," Cason said. "He's always there. I know that if I let up, he's going to be right there to show me up. It keeps me on my toes, working hard."

Simpson also is a hard worker in the classroom. Soldotna athletic director and math teacher Alan Howard said he was struck by that when he taught Simpson in a precalculus class last year.

Simpson has a 3.93 grade point average, and while he said the hard sciences are his favorite classes, he said his best grades come in language arts classes.

"If I'm not doing sports, it's homework," Simpson said, explaining that his parents, Bill and Laurie, have high academic expectations for their children. "That's one of the rules in my family. If your grades go down, you don't play."

Simpson has kept his grades up, and is a member of Soldotna's National Honor Society. He's taken to politics this year and is president of SoHi's student body.

"I like school, so it makes sense to make things as fun as I would like them to be," Simpson said.

Simpson also is involved in the model United Nations and is a member of the yearbook staff.

As far as next year, Simpson plans on attending college somewhere west of the Mississippi River, though he's not quite sure where he'll be or what he'd like to study.

"I'd like to get a football scholarship, but if I don't, I'll go wherever," Simpson said.

Simpson keeps busy in the athletic arena year-round. He played basketball and ran track for the Stars last year.

Truesdell would like to see Simpson on the wrestling mat this year.

"He was undefeated in junior high," said Truesdell, who also is the wrestling coach at Soldotna. "Even with the couple of months that we have, I know we could turn him into a good wrestler."

Simpson and the Stars still have a few weeks of football left to play before worrying about wrestling. While Saturday's loss drops the Stars to 2-1 in the NLC, they've still got a shot at the conference title and they're far from out in the race for a playoff berth.

If the Stars are able to pull through for a spot in the postseason, much of it will be because of Simpson's leadership.

"Cason is leading us in a direction where the kids are believing they're going to make the playoffs," Truesdell said.

A prime example of the Stars reliance on and belief in Simpson came during a one-on-one drill during practice last week. Truesdell said it came down to Simpson against another teammate, and when he asked the rest of the squad who would prevail, all but a couple lined up in Simpson's corner.

"They see his work ethic and the way he carries the football -- SoHi tradition is built on kids like Cason," Truesdell said.

Truesdell will rely on Simpson's leadership even more this week, just as the team did when it struggled against tough competition early in the season.

"He's always positive," Truesdell said. "You always worry when you're 0-3 whether you're doing the right thing, but the kids responded because of kids like Cason.

"When you have a guy like Cason who's willing to share his experience and be a leader, you don't have problems."

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