High School Sports

Pontoon is a quick learner

Pelion sophomore running back Jamar Pontoon knew the expectations coming into this season.

His predecessor, Sean Davis, set the school single-season rushing mark of over 2,300 yards last season. But Pontoon, a first-year starter, has proven himself a quick study.

The 5-foot-8-inch, 180-pound sophomore has gained 1,516 rushing yards on 228 carries and leads the team with 14 touchdowns.

"Sean helped me with everything. He taught all about how to improve," Pontoon said. "He helped me learn the playbook and taught me how to have a better work ethic."

His mentor would be pleased.

Starting with a breakout performance in the Panther's 27-13 victory at rival Swansea, Pontoon has surpassed 100 yards rushing in every game. He kept his streak alive Friday with 140 yards in a loss to Silver Bluff.

Pontoon also has managed to churn out over 200 rushing yards in a game twice - he ran for 200 yards in a 38-18 victory against Wagner-Salley and for 209 yards in a 33-14 loss to Edisto.

Although the Panthers (3-6) are struggling this year, Ben Freeman - in his 20th year as coach at Pelion - likes what he sees from his young running back.

"He's a very hard worker, number one. He has dramatically improved his strength from his freshman year by working hard in the weight room. His conditioning has also improved," Freeman said. "He has turned into a very durable player, who runs and hits the hole hard every time. For his age, that's special."

Freeman said that it is not only his ability as a runner that has the Pelion coaching staff excited.

"The great thing about him is that no one has completely stopped him so far," Freeman said. "Because of that, we're trying to get him more involved in the offense. He's developing as a receiver and has turned into a threat returning kicks."

In 2009, Pontoon has returned 14 kickoffs for the Panthers, dashing his way to an average of 31.6 yards per return.

While speed is certainly his strong suit - Freeman said his running back had been clocked at 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash - Pontoon believes he needs to become a more complete player to play at the next level.

"My speed definitely helps me, but I need to improve my size," Pontoon said. "If I get bigger I can be more durable and hit the hole harder. I just try to make good plays and help the team win.

"I love this game, it means everything to me. I started playing Pop Warner when I was really young, and I still love it."

While it might be early for recruiters to come calling, Freeman believes Pontoon has the right attitude to make his dreams a reality.

"He has put up some very strong numbers through two years and I think if he sets goals he can get even better," Freeman said. "He's the kind of person who is going to work at it. You hand him the ball and you know he's going to go hard every time. He has a very bright future."