The Times West Virginian

Sports

July 15, 2014

Redmond comfortable leading Huskies’ power running game

RACHEL — Football is known by many to be the sport of traditions.

For North Marion’s football team, that tradition is being a smashmouth, downhill, physical football team. And that starts with the players carrying the football.

“Of course, everyone needs a power-style offense,” Huskies’ coach Daran Hays said during the team’s three-week live period.

For the Huskies, their leader rusher will be gone this season.

Replacing that guy, Ryan Elliott, will be a difficult task. What the Huskies lose is 1,172 rushing yards over the past two seasons, including 825 last season as a senior to lead the way for North Marion.

During conversations about this season’s running back situation, the phrase, “Elliott is big shoes to fill,” came out of Hays’ mouth on more than one occasion, speaking to what the running back, who played in this summer’s North-South Football Classic, meant to the Huskies.

Stepping up to fill that void, however, will likely be senior Austin Stanley.

“Elliott is a big loss so we want to find that two back. And I think Austin fits that mold. He just picks up a little more slack,” Hays said of Stanley. “But of course you don’t want to run his legs off. But he had some big games last year.”

Indeed, he did have some big games last year, Hays pointing to two games specifically.

Coming into last season’s game against East Fairmont, Stanley had just 119 yards rushing. During that game, he racked up 193 yards on just 12 carries and scored twice, leading the Huskies to a win. In another game last season, Stanley ran for 103 yards on just eight carries, scoring a career-high three touchdowns in a blowout win against Grafton.

But with Stanley being the feature back, Hays is looking for a compliment.

“Justin Wheeler, Caleb Kuhn, Petey Jennings — we’ll have some options there,” Hays noted, looking around at his backs as they worked through drills during the live period. “And there’s a couple of kids who ran some fullback that we can have the option to move back to tailback and give us more of a power option.”

And that power option comes in the form of a bruising fullback named Noah Redmond.

Last season Redmond was a sophomore and split time at fullback with then-senior J.J. Rogers, learning the tricks of the trade and how to open holes for players like Stanley and Elliott.

Now, though, he’s ready to fill the void and clear some lanes of his own this season.

“I feel pretty good. I’ve had a lot of leaders to look up to so it’s been nice,” Redmond said of the task. “I’ve had a lot of people lead by example — especially J.J.”

Redmond said that his former teammate taught him many valuable lessons, telling him that there was one key function of being a fullback.

“Lower your shoulder and hit somebody,” said Redmond.

That’s right up the fullback/linebacker’s alley, though, after having played fullback his entire football career, dating back to flag football, he said.

Having a strong relationship with those that you’re blocking for helps, too, knowing that the backs behind you trust you to create some space for them to break loose.

“He opens pretty big holes to run through,” senior wing back Tristan Riggs said. “He’s a pretty big guy and he’s good at what he does. He hits hard, real hard. He sees stuff more than other people do. He’s just a pretty good player.”

Other than opening up running lanes, Redmond’s tasks will include picking up key first downs on third-and-short situations, something that he feels very comfortable with.

“I like having the ball in my hand,” he admitted. “I’m very comfortable. I know that if my line makes a hole for me I can usually get it.”

With that confidence, Hays knows that he needs to find ways to put the rock in his bruiser’s belly more often.

“We have to do a little better job of getting Noah involved,” the coach said. “He’s played a significant amount of fullback. We’ve got to do a better job of getting him the ball on our belly plays, on our quick trap plays.”

At the end of the day, the message is clear: Run the ball. Win games.

“If you look back at the games that we won we ran the ball a lot,” Redmond noted. “I think if we stick to what we know we will do pretty good.”

Email Matt Welch at mwelch@timeswv.com or follow on Twitter @MattWelch_TWV.

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