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Small back carries Castle Park High into championship game

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CHULA VISTA, Calif. -- Castle Park High School will play in its first championship game in 20 years Friday night when the Trojans take on Francis Parker.

The Trojans will lean heavily on running back Erik Hernandez, who happens to be the smallest guy on the roster.

Playing football at Castle Park has become a family affair.

"I think the biggest change here is the family," said Hernandez. "These coaches really emphasize that and I think that's made a huge difference this year."

The Trojans were predicted to finish 5-5. But under first year head coach Chris Livesay, the team boasts an 11-1 record and stands one win away from a championship title in Division V -- an opportunity the program hasn't seen in 20 years.

"Two years ago we didn't win a game here, 0-10," said Livesay. "Last year we had to forfeit two games because we didn't have enough kids to put on the field. Now having this success, I think they're seeing the results of all their hard work and that's awesome."

The Trojans weapon to success comes in Hernandez. The junior has more than 1,200 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns despite being the smallest back in the county at just 5'4" and 150 pounds.

"My height can sometimes help," said Hernandez. "Kind of sneak around the linemen and everything but it's never really affected me in any way. I mean I have a lower center of gravity so I'm kind of harder to tackle."

"He makes things happen," said Livesay. "We spread the ball around a bit. You know we've got some other running backs, some other receivers, and tight ends that do some things for us but he's the focal point of our offense."

Hernandez models his style of play after NFL running back Darren Sproles, who is just two inches taller, a little bit heavier but an inspiration, proving that you don't have to be tall to play big.

"He really excelled and he didn't let that get the best of him," said Hernandez. "He's in the NFL, had a great career so I really look up to him for that."

As the underdogs of their division, the Trojans will rely on Hernandez to lead them into battle for a title two decades in the making.

"It's been amazing man," he said. "We've never been this far before and it's shocked everyone so we're just living in the moment and it's just fun to be here."

Castle Park plays Francis Parker Friday night at Otay Mesa High School.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

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