Reese Nichols has helped Dutch Fork win games passing the ball.
On Friday, it was the quarterback’s legs that helped the top-ranked Silver Foxes stay unbeaten. The senior rushed for a career-high 234 yards and two fourth-quarter touchdowns in a 30-19 win over Spring Valley.
Nichols also threw for 75 yards to earn The State’s Offensive Player of the Week honors. Fairfield Central’s Kedar Jennnings was named the Defensive Player of the Week after his 4½-sack performance in a win over Chester.
“The way (Nichols) played on Friday, he was the leader. He stepped up when we needed it,” Dutch Fork receiver Bobby Irby said.
“Wasn’t throwing the ball good, so they were giving us good looks and we ran it up the middle,” Nichols said. “Our game plan was mostly throwing ball, but we had to switch to something else.”
Dutch Fork coach Tom Knotts said Nichols has “deceptive speed” and you can’t just arm tackle the 6-foot-1, 205-pound quarterback. Friday’s performance was the first time Nichols rushed for more than 100 yards, but he has a pair of 200-yard passing games.
Nichols, who’s thrown for 1,309 yards and 14 TDs, is settling into his role as starter after not playing football last year to concentrate on baseball. That was a decision Nichols immediately regretted, and he was going to make sure he was out there for his senior year.
Still, it wasn’t a guarantee Nichols was going to be the starter when he decided to play. Knotts thought he was going to get Jake Bentley at quarterback when his father, Bobby, took the running backs job at South Carolina. But Bentley opted to bypass his senior year and is now starting for the Gamecocks. Backup Caleb Clark moved back to Georgia, and that left Knotts scrambling for a solution during the spring.
“We thought Jake Bentley was coming and we thought we had all the answers. … Bentley decided not to come, so we had to go to work with Reese. It has been admirable the way he has responded,” Knotts said. “I am very hard on him to push him to get to the level I want him to be. He has made great strides every week. And more than anyone else, I am proud of his development this year.
“He is working to be the complete package. He isn’t the complete dual-threat quarterback yet, but he is getting close.”
Nichols admits Knotts can be hard on him, but he likes it because it pushes him to get better. The coach and the quarterback meet in the mornings three days a week and in the afternoon before practice.
Nichols said those study sessions help in his development, and so has his supporting cast. The Silver Foxes have a talented offense which includes all-star selections at receiver in Irby, Austin Connor and Bryson Cannon and freshman running back Ron Hoff.
Nichols has developed chemistry with the receivers, and they spent more than a half hour after practice Monday working on deep routes.
“It is a long grind, but we are out here every day, pushing to get better and this just happens,” Nichols said. “It is lot easier when you have a good receiving corps.”