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Thursday, July 31, 2014

By land or by air, Stevens just made things happen

Saturday, December 24, 2011

(Photo)
Dexter senior quarterback Cody Stevens is the 2011 Standard Democrat Player of the Year.
DEXTER -- Cody Stevens is a player who simply makes things happen.

Whether it was with his arm or his legs, Stevens led Dexter to two of their more successful seasons as of late and made a name for himself among the best quarterbacks to ever wear a Dexter football jersey in the process.

In just two years behind center, Stevens accumulated numbers that have never been seen at Dexter High School.

He's the first signal caller to throw and rush for over 1,000 yards in a season. As a matter of fact, he's the first quarterback to rush for over 1,000 yards, period.

He's also second in school history in total yardage for a quarterback behind Dexter great Earl Wheeler, who went on to play college football at Oklahoma State University.

It's hard to imagine, but Stevens' accomplishments transpired in just a two-year span. On top of that, he was basically thrown into the fire when a stroke of chance fell onto his plate.

After failing to garner any starting time at both the eighth and ninth grade level, Stevens finally had his chance to prove what he could do with the football in his hands just before his sophomore season.

During a contact camp of that same year, the current starting quarterback at the time, Ben Mills, could not make it to camp because of a conflicting work schedule. Mills' backup, Tyler Miller, was out of town.

In stepped Stevens.

After showing coaches just what he was capable of doing, he worked his way into a starting position on the junior varsity squad. A year later, during his junior year, the job of Dexter's varsity starting quarterback was his.

"Honestly, I think people thought I wasn't going to be very good. I like to prove people wrong," Stevens said. "I thought to myself, 'do I want to be the guy who comes in and does nothing? Or do I want to be the guy that makes things happen?' I just thank God that He was there with me. I couldn't have done anything without Him."

Although his opportunity to showcase his skills at the most important position in football came as happenstance, Stevens had been working for that moment for as long as he could remember.

Stevens remembers a hit he took during little league football that, in other words, sent him for a loop. That devastating blow had Stevens, a kid who wanted nothing more than to follow in the footsteps of his father, questioning his decision to play the game he loves.

"It definitely had me thinking that this was a very tough sport and if I wanted to do it or not," said Stevens. "But, my dad, he was just telling me that I was going to be good. He just told me that I have to get in the weight room, run and work my butt off to get there."

Stevens remembers doing crunches, push ups and other exercises while simply hanging out with his dad. Stevens said he would make a dollar for the work he put in -- two dollars for extra reps.

His father, Nate Stevens, who himself played and starred as a running back for the Bearcats 25 years ago, kept his son motivated throughout his years of little league football and beyond.

"He comes out of a football family so it's kind of engrained into him," Dexter coach Aaron Pixley said. "He works hard. You put that on top of what already a football talent that he is, he turned into a pretty good football player."

Steven's dad was a 1,000-yard running back in 1985 and 1986 for the Bearcats.

"I just tried to follow in his footsteps and be an all-state football player," Stevens said about his father. "I give all gratitude to him. He's worked with me and worked my butt off since I was little."

The same hard-working mindset engrained in him as a kid, stuck with Stevens throughout his high school career.

"What people don't see is the work he's put into it over the course of his career," Pixley said about Stevens. "He's a very hard worker in the weight room, he runs a lot in the off season and has put in a lot of time and effort to build his body up. He was on a mission."

After turning heads his sophomore season, it was finally Stevens' turn to take the reigns as Dexter's starting quarterback.

He promptly began to make things happen.

After starting his junior year with a 3-4 record, Stevens led the Bearcats to three-straight district wins. He carried that momentum into the Class 3 playoffs where, almost shockingly, Dexter defeated both Ste. Genevieve and Park Hills Central to advance to the Class 3 quarterfinals.

Stevens threw six touchdown passes and had over 400 yards passing during Dexter's two improbable playoff wins. Although they fell during the next round against the eventual Class 3 runner up, John Burroughs, the experienced gained by the Bearcats and Stevens propelled the quarterback into a senior season that would be filled with unprecedented accomplishments.

"For him, his junior season was a learning process and was about getting more and more confident," Pixley said. "Our offense started playing better and we started clicking as the year went on. That gave confidence to everybody and he was no different. By the end of that year, you saw the dual threat quarterback that he was."

"Going as far as we did my junior year, it kind of put in my mind that I can do this," Stevens said. "It helped me be the best I can be. It made me where I was confident in the pocket and on the move."

Stevens' threat as both a runner and passer become extremely evident soon after Dexter's only loss of the regular season at the hands of Sikeston. In the four games after, Stevens totaled 535 passing yards and 575 rushing yards as well as 14 total touchdowns.

"He presents a threat to the other team every time you snap the ball to him," Pixley. "He's a dual threat quarterback. He threw and ran the ball very well. He had good players around him that played very well, but he's just a very good talent and he looks to make a play every time the ball is in his hands. He did that a lot for us this year.

"Any time you can snap the ball to that type of player, it makes you team better. Obviously, our offense was very good with him."

Although they rolled through their district with lopsided wins averaging 52 points per game during the three-game stretch, the Bearcats quickly and unexpectedly bowed out of the Class 3 state playoff chase after a heartbreaking 29-28 loss to Park Hills Central, a team they had beaten by 10 points earlier in the season.

"We had high expectations," Stevens said. "We had one of the best seasons we could. It didn't end the way we wanted it to, but things happen for a reason. It was good, overall."

All that is left now is Steven's finished product he attained while between the hash marks.

He ended his two-year career with a 17-7 record as a starting quarterback and led Dexter's rushing offense with 1,291 yards during his senior year. His chunk of running stats, coupled with those of running backs Josh Overall, Nick Summers and Alex Cliff, among others, gave Dexter a new record of rushing offense for any team in it's history. The Bearcats ran for 3,140 yards for an average of 285.5 yards a game.

During his two years behind center, Stevens racked up 5,084 yards of offense -- the second-most at Dexter High School behind Wheeler.

Dexter's offense also set a school record for most points in a season with 476 being the new mark.

"We knew we were going to be pretty good up front -- although we didn't expect to break every single offensive rushing record in the school's history," Pixley said. "Even when pass plays broke down, Cody was able to scramble and get positive yards out of it. That kept our offense on the field most of the time."

On top of his scrambling abilities, Stevens threw for 1,534 yards and 19 touchdowns. He routinely threw on the run, which would usually increase his chances of inaccurate passes. Although, Stevens threw just four interceptions all year.

"He's got a very accurate arm and he's very accurate on the run," said Pixley. "That's just a lot of practice. He didn't have a whole lot of quarterback experience coming into last year, but he just kept working."

As a whole, Stevens tallied 2,825 yards and 33 touchdowns during his senior campaign -- nearly a third of Dexter's total offensive yardage, which stood at 4,674.

"That's amazing to run and throw for over 1,000," said Pixley. "He's the first one Dexter has had by far. I don't know if that will ever be met again. He's put himself up there in the class of quarterbacks to be called one of the best ones around. He deserves everything he gets because he's busted his butt for it."