Iron man Hager gives Cardinals ‘big-play threat’

by Levi Gilbert

With three games left in the regular season, the Haskell Harmony Grove Cardinals are on the outside looking in the 5-3A.

After opening the season with three straight non-conference wins, the Cardinals have gone 1-3 so far in the 5-3A. They currently sit in sixth place — just one spot outside of the playoff picture.

“We started strong and then hit a bump,” said Dillon Hager. “But we’re aiming to get it back on track.”

Hager, a senior receiver/defensive back for the Cardinals, was selected to this year’s 501 Football Team — 26 players representing all 11 counties of the 501. The team boasts the best the 501 has to offer both on and off the field. Hager was nominated by his head coach, Paul Calley.

“Dillon can see things develop quickly,” Calley wrote in his nomination. “He’s always around the football and is a big-play threat. He has a tremendous amount of ability and will be relied on heavily on both sides of the ball and rarely leaves the field.”

Hager is an iron man on the field for the Cardinals, getting very few plays off.

“I’ve had to overcome mental fatigue and learn to push myself because I don’t come off of the field,” Hager said. “I play both offense and defense.”

Hager gives the Cardinals a dynamic playmaker on both sides of the ball. In 2015, Hager led the team in interceptions and was second in receiving. As a sophomore, he recorded a three-interception game against Magnet Cove. This season, he’s recorded two 100-plus yard receiving games — nine catches for 145 yards and two touchdowns against Magnet Cove in Week 3 and eight catches for 108 yards and one touchdown against Jessieville in Week 6.

“He is very competitive and strives to be the best,” Calley said. “But at the same time he respects his opponents and acknowledges other athletes that share his passion for the game. Dillon is constantly encouraging others and pushing them to give their very best. He’s a respectful and good natured young man that’s always upbeat and wearing a smile.

“I think he has great potential and could be considered a special player by season’s end.”

Hager and the Cardinals, with the goal of still making the playoffs, will have to go through the best this week to keep the goal alive. Harmony Grove travels to undefeated Prescott this week.

“We have to keep the ball away from Prescott’s offense and convert on third and fourth down to win,” Hager said.

In addition to playing football for Harmony Grove, Hager will run track this spring. On a field competing with other athletes from across the state is exactly where Hager prefers to be.

“It’s an honor to be selected as a member of this year’s 501 Football Team with so many other talented players,” Hager said.

Hager and the Cardinals return to 5-3A play this Friday at Prescott at 7 p.m.