The senior tailback won the league rushing title for the second straight season, gaining almost eight yards per carry

by: THE OUTLOOK: DAVID BALL - Gresham running back Devauntae Hoffman gained nearly 1,500 yards during the regular season and is also a force in the secondary on defense.

Opposing coaches figured out how to stop Gresham High running back Devauntae Hoffman early this season. Simply don’t let him touch the ball. That works on kick returns where teams would rather boot the ball out of bounds than give the Gophers’ lightning bolt a chance to strike big.

Now, all opposing teams need to do is devise a plan to kidnap the Gophers’ coaching staff, so they can’t call his number on offense.

Hoffman gets the ball in his hands on 50 percent of the Gophers plays, piling up almost 1,500 yards on the ground and averaging nearly 8 yards per carry.

“He has the quickness to make a guy miss, he has the spurt to run away from people and he can also run people over,” Gresham coach Todd Nagel said. “Most backs have one or two of those things, Devauntae has all three. Nothing he does surprises me anymore.”

That mix of power and speed means the senior tailback doesn’t need much daylight to find the end zone — something he has done 15 times this season.

Still, he recognizes the efforts of his teammates in the trenches. During a tight win over Reynolds earlier this year, the Gresham coaches asked Hoffman to select a play to convert a 4th-and-3. He chose a power play that relied on his linemen to knock the defense back.

“The coaches spend all week getting the line prepared, because that’s where the game is either won or lost — with those guys up front,” Hoffman says.

He fills the role of workhorse back when the team is trying to pick up first downs and drain the clock at the end of games, but Hoffman can also fill up the highlight reel. Most of his big strikes are the result of cutting back against the grain and dodging tacklers in the backfield before sprinting into open space.

In the season finale against David Douglas, he drew audible gasps along the sideline when he leaped over the top of the defender and didn’t break stride on his way to the end zone.

His go-to move is the stiff-arm, as he looks to deliver the boom on the defender.

“My arms are short, so I can’t just put it out there, I have to shove off the defender,” Hoffman says. “I know if I don’t bang into somebody, they are going to bang me.”

He has developed the strength to make the move effective with long hours in the weight room. He puts up 330 pounds on the bench press.

“He works hard to keep himself in the best shape,” Nagel said. “He’s not a guy just relying on his God-given ability. Football is his deal. It’s important to him, and he demands that same effort from his teammates.”

Hoffman is such a talent that he stays on the field for most of the 48 minutes each Friday night. He also plays in the secondary on defense where he ranks among the league leaders with four interceptions.

The last time he touched the ball on a kick return he found the end zone twice — one was called back on a holding penalty. That was against Lincoln in week two of the season.

He was an all-league choice on special teams despite getting his hands on only three punt returns all season.

“I always hope for a lucky bounce and a chance to make an explosive play,” Hoffman says.

With the stakes at their highest in the playoffs, every opponent knows that stopping the Gophers means stopping Hoffman. He’s ready for the challenge.

“The coaches keep telling us that these games in November are the ones you remember. You have to play your hardest because it’s win or go home,” Hoffman says. “Our goal is to get past that first round, and I’m expecting the fans to be loud, crazy and bringing a lot of excitement.”

Hoffman is being recruited by several teams from the Big Sky Conference, most notably, Portland State, Eastern Washington and North Dakota.

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