In the Chinese zodiac, 2012 is the year of the dragon. In Midlands high school football, it’s the year of the running back.
Eight local rushers have rumbled their way past the 1,000-yard mark led by Hammond’s Quayshon Myers, who has 1,850 yards under his belt in his first season as a starter.
In the final game of the regular season, Myers broke the Skyhawks’ single-season rushing record and can stretch it beyond the 2,000-yard mark in the SCISA Class 3A playoffs.
“Quayshon certainly has his intangibles,” coach Erik Kimrey said. “He’s got tremendous vision, he sees the holes and he’s able to get in there pretty quick. He doesn’t take too many direct hits because he’s able to make guys miss. He’s taken some plays that could have been only 5 yards and made them go longer.”
At Gilbert, senior Omar Bethea crushed the Indians’ single-game record with a 278-yard performance in the third game.
“From the beginning, we did expect him to carry the load,” coach Barry Harley said. “We were hoping for 20-25 carries per ballgame. Sometimes, he was forced to carry it more than we wanted to, and he stepped up to that.”
Bethea’s job was especially difficult because of Gilbert’s struggles balancing its offense.
“We were forced to run the ball this year, and at a time, everybody could pack eight or nine in the box against us, and he responded to that in the ball game,” Harley said.
Bethea said, “I was just determined to be (productive) either way. I prepared the week before, reviewed a lot of film to be ready for whatever comes.”
Ben Lippen’s Tyler Renew amassed 1,641 yards this season, on an average 23 carries per game, facing similar circumstances. At White Knoll, Quin Jones posted 1,160 yards while sharing the rushing load with Lamar Ray.
Ray, who missed three games due to injury, could break 1,000 yards in the Timberwolves’ regular season finale. Ray has posted 826 yards on 116 carries in seven games.
Swansea coach Chad Leaphart is happy to have a 1,000-yard back in the Tigers’ backfield. Travis Loadholt averages 6.1 yards on 206 attempts.
“The main things is if Travis has a good game, that’s what helps the team. It’s often the team that can run the ball best that wins, and Travis gives us a good opportunity to do that,” Leaphart said. “He’s very athletic brings a lot to the table, and what makes him a great running back is overall athleticism.”
And the yardage gained is not just a tribute to the individual athletes, Kimrey said.
“When you see a running back that has a lot of yards, you know that he probably has a good offense working with him,” Kimrey said. “Quayshon has a really good team around him. He’s got a really good offensive line. We’ve got five guys up there that have done a great job all season.”
With their squads pushing for state titles, the backs are not putting limits on what they could achieve.
“I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot. I worked hard during the summer, and it got me where I am,” said Loadholt, who is 154 yards from his goal of 1,400 yards. “It’s going to get tougher and tougher every game.”
Said Bethea: “I’ve already surpassed the number I thought, so I’m going to try to just keep adding to it. I’m not done with it just yet.”
Reach Nelson at (803) 771-8419