There are some things -- like gaining weight -- that Park View sophomore Deric Dudinski has had to work on considerably since taking over as the Patriots' starting tailback early in his freshman year.
But it's the stuff that comes naturally that has allowed this speedster to shine two games into the 2004 season.
Dudinski, who started in seven games a year ago, set a career high for rushing yards with 146 and scored three touchdowns in the Patriots' season-opening victory over Fort Defiance two weeks ago. He then topped that mark last Friday with 171 yards in a win at Culpeper.
As a freshman, Dudinski surpassed 100 yards three times, in games against Culpeper (106), Dominion (143) and Heritage (123), finishing the season with 560 yards and three touchdowns on 146 carries.
"I think the thing that really defines Deric, that sets him apart, is his vision," said Park View Coach Charlie Pierce, whose team has outscored its first two opponents by a combined 83-16. "When he starts to see a hole develop, he sees two avenues he might attack, where a normal back might see just one. So he allows those to develop, and then he accelerates."
Said Dudinski: "I can't really explain it. I've always been able to run the ball but really couldn't see what was happening around me before. Now, it's almost like I can see things before they happen. It's like second nature to me now."
Pierce attributes part of that to natural ability and part to hard work. In addition to catering his diet and weightlifting programs this past offseason to help him gain more than 25 pounds -- he also grew nearly three inches -- Dudinski (5 feet 8, 160 pounds) also worked to improve his speed, footwork and, perhaps most important, his knowledge of the game.
"He was just a freshman last year, so that's naturally an age where you grow a lot," Pierce said. "But he not only matured physically, he also matured from a mental standpoint. His work ethic is way beyond his years. It's what has allowed him to really become the workhorse for our team."
Last week at Culpeper, for example, the Patriots ran 50 total plays on offense. It was Dudinski, dubbed "D-Rock" by teammates, who got the call 58 percent of the time (29 carries).
"I like that the coaches trust me and trust that I can do what they need me to do out there," Dudinski said. "Them giving me the ball so many times, it makes me feel good to know I can be relied on. I'm willing to do anything I can to help out our team, to help us get back to the top this year.
"I'm going to give 110 percent every time I touch the ball. And if I mess up, I'm going to fix it and do better the next time."