Warriors defense at top strength with return of ‘motor guy’

Posted Tuesday, Oct. 08, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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The Martin football team has resembled a well-oiled machine in getting off to a 2-0 start in District 3-5A. And it’s little wonder.

The Warriors have their motor back, and he’s good as new — or close to it. Senior safety Cedric Fernandes is back on the field and in the starting lineup after missing his entire junior season with a knee injury.

“He’s the motor guy,” Martin coach Bob Wager said. “Cedric’s the motor guy on our team. His motor runs so hot it makes everyone else’s motor run hotter.”

Martin’s motor guy was such an aggressive, ball-hawking playmaker as a sophomore that he earned extensive playing time alongside talented defensive backs Eric Amoako and his brother Stephen Amoako, now freshmen on the University of Oregon football team.

“My sophomore year I was always flying around to the ball,” Fernandes said. “I didn’t even know what I was doing because I was new on varsity. So I just started flying to the ball, and it was funny because I just started making plays out there. I guess I just had the energy to get everybody going.”

The motor was shelved before his junior season began. In an August practice, he bumped knees with a Warriors teammate during a drill and tore the ACL in his left knee. Initially, Fernandes struggled to deal with not being able to play.

“It was tough being on the sidelines, knowing that could be me out there,” he said.

But he soon realized he could still be a motor guy from the sidelines. “I knew my role was on the sidelines, encouraging everybody to do their best out there,” Fernandes said. “It was tough, but I got used to it after awhile.”

As solid as he was as a sophomore, Fernandes’ value was even more apparent in 2012, Wager said. The Warriors missed Fernandes’ on-field energy. In his absence, Martin struggled to a 7-4 finish and a loss to Southlake Carroll in the bi-district round of the playoffs.

“To be honest with you, it was probably even more telling last year,” Wager said. “When your motor guy’s not on the field, you miss him, because emotion creates effort and effort equals wins.”

Fernandes got back in shape, worked to strengthen his knee in the offseason and was running at game speed by the summer. His teammates showed confidence in Fernandes’ ability to bounce back this season by voting him as one of the two team captains. The other is linebacker Josh Watson.

Wager, who believes Fernandes would be a highly-sought-after recruit by universities if not for his injury, is excited to see the safety get rewarded for his hard work in overcoming his injury.

“Talented kid,” Wager said. “But he’s still the hustle guy.”

Fernandes feels comfortable on the field for the most part. But he concedes he still worries about his knee sometimes.

“I trust it, but there are still times where I’m a little bit hesitant,” he said. “I’m still trying to work through the mental aspect of things. It’s not 100 percent.”

Even if he’s not where he wants to be, Fernandes has proved to be highly effective. He’s blocked a kick on special teams, contributed to several blocked or short punts and contributed to a defense that has stifled the offenses of district opponents Weatherford and rival Arlington High.

“Everybody flies to the ball,” Fernandes said. “One person holds up the ball carrier and then somebody else tries to rip the ball out. We work on that every day during practice. It carries over to the game.”

As good as the Martin defense is at forcing turnovers and stops, there’s one play against the Colts that Fernandes wishes he had made.

“I have to say, I dropped one against Arlington,” Fernandes said. “I misjudged it. I read the play so I broke underneath the route and it came straight to me. I don’t know what happened.”

But Martin’s motor guy should have plenty more chances to make up for that play.

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