A Quarterback’s Worst Nightmare: Ashton McKenzie Having Historic Season

Bobby Colla

Sports Editor

Sophomore starting defensive end Ashton McKenzie was recognized as defensive player of the week by the NJCAA on Oct. 8.

McKenzie set the Hudson Valley record for most sacks in a single game with 5.5 sacks against East Coast Prep. He also recorded the second of his interceptions in this game.

In his first seven games for the Vikings, 5’ 9”, 229 lb. McKenzie had 11 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, 2 interceptions and a touchdown.

“I’m just doing my job. The drills in practice have helped me,” said McKenzie. Forcing the two fumbles was a result of a strip drill the team had run in practice, according to McKenzie.

Both of McKenzie’s interceptions were on opposing team screen passes. He said the team had practiced defending against these plays often, and that he was just putting the practices into action.

“I’m ending up in the right spot,” McKenzie said, “I read the tackle, dropped back to find the receiver, and read the quarterback.” McKenzie returned the first of his 2 interceptions for a touchdown, and has forced 4 turnovers on his own.

McKenzie has improved in just about every category in the stat book since last season. The Vikings defensive lineman has recorded 4 more sacks at this point than he had all last year. He is also just 5 sacks short of the single season sacks record at Hudson Valley, and just 3 behind Hudson Valley’s career sacks record.

“I try not to think about it,” said McKenzie, “but they are a couple of my goals.”

McKenzie is also well-liked and respected by fellow players and coaching staff. They regard him as hard working player.

“He does his job well,” said head coach Mike Muehling, “His mentality and character is something you want as a coach.”

“His success is in large part a result of him doing his job,” said Muehling, “but he uses his skills to make plays that other players might not be able to.” Muehling said that many other players may not have been able to score a touchdown like McKenzie did after his first interception.

“Everyone has the same opportunity on this team,” said the coach, “but he’s the one who’s making the plays.”

“He applies it to the game,” Muehling said, citing McKenzie’s ability to be coached.

“Every player gets the coaching,” said Muehling, “[but] it’s the select few players that can apply that coaching to the game that stand out, and Ashton is one of those guys.”

Before becoming a star defensive end at Hudson Valley, McKenzie attended DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, where he went All-City as a running back in his sophomore year, and All-City as a linebacker in his junior year.

As a senior, McKenzie didn’t play much, and did not specify a reason.

Contrary to what is visible, McKenzie and Muehling “didn’t always see eye to eye,” according to Muehling.

When McKenzie came to play at Hudson Valley last year, he was a running back and a linebacker, so he wanted to play at one of those positions. Muehling had other plans.

“I kind of forced him to play defensive line,” said Muehling. “It’s hard to argue with his production on the field.”

Muehling said he has the confidence in McKenzie to take his game to the next level. “Obviously Ashton’s football career will not end here,” said Muehling. “He’s got a skill set that any coach would love to be able to work with,” he added.

McKenzie now prepares to lead Hudson Valley’s defense through their last two games to try to keep their 7-0 season rolling. They play Globe at home on Saturday, Oct. 25 at 1 p.m.

 

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