COLERAIN TOWNSHIP, Ohio -- Colerain senior running back Hector Lopez has eight carries for 16 yards this season.
The 5-foot-4, 125-pound senior isn't a starter. It's only his second season of playing football, and he's played in just three games. He spends practices with the second team.
Yet he's a captain for the state's top-ranked Division I team .
"It's a pretty cool story to think of where he's come from and where he's at during this point," Colerain coach Tom Bolden said.
Lopez, 18, immigrated from Mexico to Cincinnati with his family when he was 5 years old. He was the first among his parents and two siblings to speak English.
Lopez went through the Northwest Local School District but never played sports until he started to attend weightlifting sessions with the football team at the end of his sophomore year.
"He was scared," senior running back JJ Davis said. "He didn't know what position he wanted to play or anything. I just took him in."
Lopez always wanted to play a sport but said he never had the right direction until the football opportunity presented itself.
"It gave him some discipline," said Davis. "It helped him figure out when you have someone supporting you or someone else is counting on you on a team, then you have to take things more seriously."
Lopez, who also ran track in a previous spring, saw his grades improve. His communication skills flourished at school. He took more of a leadership role at home, too.
"It opened a lot of doors, to be honest," Lopez said. "I guess a lot of people never really thought of me playing football because I am pretty small, but anybody can do it."
On Friday night, Lopez will be recognized on Senior Night when Colerain (8-0) plays host to Fairfield (7-1). The Cardinals, projected to be No. 1 in the Division I, Region 4 computer points standings , also could be in the driver's seat to win their 19th consecutive Greater Miami Conference title.
Although the six other Colerain captains have verbally committed to a college program or will have opportunities to play at the next level, Lopez knows this is likely his last opportunity. His long-term hopes lie in architecture and entrepreneurship, which he said he would like to pursue at the University of Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky University or Arizona State.
Being a captain on the Colerain football team is often synonymous with being a standout, but that's not always a necessity.
"You have to be a complete player," Bolden said. "It's not always about being vocal. It's not always about being the best player. It's about changing yourself for the better. It's about doing things to help others and overcoming adversity."
Lopez shares a first-bell economics class with Davis, who said he is also one to pick up others with an encouraging word or joke on the field or in school.
"He's just a nice dude, period," Davis said. "It doesn't matter who you are -- he helps you. I've never heard him put anyone down."
When Lopez appeared in the Middletown and Sycamore games in September, it was nerve-wracking to see how everyone else looked at him. He got the wind knocked out of him on one carry but didn't want to exit. He kept thinking about the end zone.
"I think I was more excited than him every time he touched the ball, especially against Middletown," Davis said. "There was one where he could've cut up the field and scored. I was jumping up and down. I get very excited when he gets in."
Lopez had two carries for seven yards in last week's 42-0 win over host Lakota East. He will be ready whenever his No. 6 is called again late in the game.
So will his teammates.
"Everybody on the sideline is so supportive," senior safety Kendall Williams said. "They know it's his time. Everybody wants Hector to be in."