“It’s like running behind a Mac truck,” Gordon said after his 171-yard rushing day in a 35-0 win over the Packers. “They’re obviously two of the biggest players in all of the Lakes Eight Conference. I’m just glad they’re on my team.”
The rest of Fruitport’s varsity football players and coaches share in Gordon’s sentiment.
Together on the offensive and defensive lines, the 6-foot-5, 270-pound Flores and the 6-4, 265-pound Hendricks have wreaked havoc for the unbeaten Trojans, who enter Friday’s contest at Orchard View ranked No. 5 in the latest Associated Press Michigan High School Football Poll in Division 3.
Fruitport first-year head coach Greg Vargas was fortunate to have Flores returning for his senior season this fall, but Hendricks’ arrival was more of a pleasant surprise.
On the Mona Shores’ varsity team since a freshman, Hendricks won a grand total of three games during his rookie and sophomore seasons with the Sailors. Fed up with the losing, Hendricks and his family felt that a decision to transfer to another school was in Chris’ best interest.
“There were several reasons why,” Hendricks said on Wednesday, choosing not to dive into specifics.
But with his choice to attend Fruitport, Hendricks said a strong allure was that he already knew a handful of Trojans from attending the same area football camps.
One player that Hendricks was familiar with that just happened to match up pretty well size-wise was Flores. Two years ago, at the Midwest Elite Lineman camp in Wixom, Flores’ father, Mario, ran into Hendricks’ father, Bruce — a family friend — and the two introduced their sons for the first time.
“It was like, ‘Geez, this kid is huge,’” Amilio recalled. “And when I heard he wanted to transfer here this summer, it was pretty exciting.”
From the get-go, Vargas said Hendricks brought an infectious energy to preseason lifting and agility workouts.
“I think he really opened some kids’ eyes with them seeing the type of weight he was doing,” Vargas said. “And this just wasn’t a case where he slapped on a bunch of weight and tried one rep. These were legitimate workouts.”
Hendricks said he gained a passion for weight lifting while still in middle school thanks to his father, and older brother, Nick. Bruce played college football at Grand Valley State, while Nick, a Mona Shores graduate, is currently on the roster at Fond du Lac Tribal and Commuity College in Cloquet, Minn.
Hendricks said he can bench 370 pounds, squat nearly 500 and dead lift 600.
His impressive accomplishments in the weight room have transferred well over the field, where as a defensive lineman, he’s produced 34 tackles – including seven for loss.
“You watch him out there and sometimes he’s picking kids up and just whipping them around,” Vargas said. “It’s pretty amazing.”
As the Trojans’ left tackle, Hendricks has paved the way for Trojans’ backs to combine for 1,055 yards and 15 touchdowns this season, as they’ve outscored opponents by a 161-60 margin.
“With me and Chris, we’ve got two big guys out there and if we can’t open up some running room, there’s something wrong,” Flores said.
Ranked as one of the top 50 high school players in Michigan in the 2014 class by several publications, college coaches have taken notice of Hendricks, including Western Michigan University, which inquired about him with Fruitport coaches recently.
“I went to their camp and I think their coaches were impressed,” he said. “Playing Division 1 has been a goal of mine really, since I started to play football.”
Although Mona Shores has enjoyed a re-birth of sorts this season with a 4-2 record, Hendricks doesn’t regret making the switch to Fruitport’s winged helmet.
“I think it’s great (Mona Shores is) having such a good year because most of my best friends are still there,” he said. “I would be upset (I left) if I wasn’t 6-0 here.”
If Hendricks is whipping players off their feet, Flores is busy bringing them to the turf. He had two sacks in the Trojans’ key victory over Grant last Friday, and as a defensive tackle, has registered seven tackles for loss.
Vargas said Flores exemplifies what it means to be a team leader, from his work ethic, to his passion of lifting receivers or running backs onto his shoulder during every touchdown celebration.
On the varsity since a sophomore, Flores has done what’s best for the team on the offensive side of the ball.
“At tight end, we want to work him more into the passing game, but he has caught a few big ones for us this season,” Vargas said. “He’s been at tackle the last two years, simply because we’ve needed him there. He’s a great blocker, but he’s also got some soft hands.”
Flores’ biggest catch this season came late in the fourth quarter against rival Spring Lake. Facing a 3rd-and-13, quarterback Tyler Fehler connected with Flores for a 15-yard gain over the middle and a game-clinching first down.
Flores is the second in what could be five in his family that will star at Fruitport. Older brother Mario was the team’s starting quarterback three years ago; freshman Antonio is the quarterback on the JV team this season; and Ethan and Peyton are up-and-coming talents at the middle school level.
Flores said it’s the defensive side of the ball that will suit him best at the next level.
“I don’t have the speed to be a tight end in college,” he said. “But I like sacking the quarterback. My dad just got a call from Grand Valley’s coaches and they’re interested in me on defense.”
With Hendricks and Flores — about 540 pounds of menacing linemen — Fruitport could be on track for its best season since 2006, when it started 10-0, then lost to East Grand Rapids in the second round of the playoffs.
“I think we can go all the way,” Hendricks said. “If we play to our strengths and don’t make stupid penalties or turnovers, there’s not another team that can stay with us in our division.”