Princeton coach Chris Pedigo had high praise for junior running back/linebacker Brodee Rice after Friday night’s 39-36 victory over Bluefield.
“He had a hell of a night man,” Pedigo said immediately after the win. “Listen, he’s the epitome – we named him captain tonight because the kid is just a leader. He’s got no quit in him and he’s full of energy. If I ask him to play guard he’ll play guard and he wouldn’t say two things about it. He’s the kind of kid you want on your football team and we’re very blessed to have him and I’m extremely, extremely proud of him.”
He didn’t play every position, but he was all over the field.
On offense Rice carried the ball eight times for 110 yards, scoring on a three-yard run in which he broke three tackles and trucked two defenders. On defense he came up with a red zone interception and returned a fumble 22 yards for a touchdown.
For his efforts, Rice has been named the Week 2 Loopress Player of the Week by the Lootpress sportswriters. The award is sponsored by Bodyworks and the Law Offices of Brandon Steele.
Rice was also the winner of the fan vote which broke the tie between him and Midland Trail’s Ayden Simms.
“Everything Brodee’s got, Brodee’s earned,” Pedigo said. “He’s worked for it, he’s been working hard in the weight room for years too. He started out – he started maybe the last six games of his freshman year as a middle linebacker. He’s waited his turn as a running back and we feel like we have a stable of running backs, but he’s one of the leaders of the group. He’s a big squat guy in the weight room and I think, not the long run, but the touchdown run is what emphasizes what he is as a football player. He dragged guys into the end zone and it’s just because of the weight room. It’s a mentality that we’re going to be tough-nosed and I think he showed that Friday night.”
While his contributions on offense weren’t without merit, his ones on defense were the key to the Tigers winning.
With under five minutes left to go in the first half, Princeton up 14-6 and the Beavers at the Princeton 10-yard line, Rice dropped into coverage and intercepted a pass from Bluefield quarterback Ryker Brown, ensuring the Tigers took the lead into the break.
“They were driving down the field on us and I noticed some guys were getting tired,” Rice said. “I told them ‘it’s time to make a play.’ I dropped in coverage and the other linebackers blitzed so I’m in coverage and I just see it. I looked back to check the receivers, the ball came at his hands and I knew I had it.”
“That was definitely a big play,” Pedigo said. “Coach (Davon) Marion had a great call. We had what we call a smoke blitz coming from the outside linebacker position. I think it forced Ryker to throw the ball a little quicker and he didn’t see our inside linebacker coming across and Brodee did exactly what he was supposed to do.”
The game itself was a sweet moment for Rice. Up to that point in his career he was 0-3 against Bluefield, suffering narrow losses as a sophomore.
“We worked our butts off all summer,” Rice said. “We just knew this year was going to be different. We knew if we came out early in the game and were the more physical team we’d win the ball game.”
His final marquee play of the evening came in the fourth quarter after Bluefield had scored 16 unanswered points. After Beavers receiver Jacorian Green caught a pass and made a move to break free, a teammate forced a fumble that Rice scooped and returned 22 yard for a score.
“Personally as a player I just work on being a playmaker,” Rice said. “Just whenever I get the ball in my hands I want to do whatever I can to score and put my team in position to score. Even if the ball isn’t in my hand I want to do whatever it takes to win the ballgame.”
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Player of the Week winners, sponsored by Bodyworks and The Law Offices of Brandon Steele
Week 1: Andre Merriam-Harshaw (Summers County)
Week 2: Brodee Rice (Princeton)