Two years ago as a sophomore, Diamond Williams watched from the sidelines as Tevion Cappe broke all of Watertown High Schools rushing records.
Last season, Anton Gadson was in a similar situation. The then-sophomore running back had an up-close view of Williams as he ground out 1,667 yards and scored 19 touchdowns for the Cyclones.
Both Williams and Gadson said they learned so much from watching their predecessors and how they approached the game. Now, Gadson will have the opportunity to play alongside Williams in a dynamic WHS backfield as coach Vince Williams frequently utilizes his two standout backs together.
Its like having two number one guys, said coach Williams of his pairing the two together. Ive told Anton he would be No. 1 on any other team in the area, but hes satisfied either playing with Diamond or behind him. Anton was Diamonds biggest fan last year, often chasing him down the sidelines rooting him on.
Diamond Williams had a breakout junior season for WHS in 2011, ranking second in Section 3 in rushing and becoming one of the most productive backs in all of Section 3. He averaged over seven yards per carry on 231 attempts, gained over 100 yards in all but one game, and rushed for 200-plus yards three times, including a 342-yard performance against Carthage.
Gadson was used sparingly by coach Williams, but put up fine numbers when he got his chance. The then-sophomore produced 466 yards on the ground on just 62 carries and scored eight touchdowns in a reserve role.
The thought of playing them together is intriguing for the coach. Although their running styles are a bit different, they both bring explosiveness and power to the offense.
At 5-foot-10, 205 pounds, Diamond Williams is a blend of speed and strength. He has the ability to outrun defenders as well as run over them.
Gadson, coming in at 5-10, 200, has also shown an elusiveness with outstanding speed. But, he too, is not afraid to overpower defenders.
Asked to describe Diamonds running style, Gadson said, He hits the holes so fast and is through the line so quickly. But he is also tough enough to hit defenders in the hole and move them backwards.
As for Gadsons style of running, Diamond Williams said, hes just so tough to tackle because hes always moving. Hes got enough speed to run by defenders, but is strong enough to go inside and also gain yards.
Coach Williams said hes been working with Diamond Williams to minimize his cuts and run north and south more often. He sometimes tried to get too cute in the hole instead of using that burst of speed. That works against poor defenders, but not against the good ones.
Diamond Williams said his goal this year is to always be moving forward and to make defenders miss me more often.
As for Gadson, coach Williams said as a track athlete, his natural tendency is to try to outrun everybody. But Anton is learning you cant do that every time. Hes learning to pick and choose when to go outside. Hes a long strider, but strong enough to overpower defenders as well.
Diamond Williams said the biggest thing he learned from Cappes superb 2010 season was in his everyday preparation.
He maintained his intensity every game, and thats my goal, he said.
Gadson said his main focus the offseason and during preseason drills has been to read my blocking and my cuts a lot quicker.
The biggest bonus of having two top backs is that coach Williams can keep them both fresh and not worry about either one breaking down during a long season.
Diamond got a little tired at the end of last year because he had so many carries (26 per game), coach Williams said. This year, we hope to keep his carries down a little and that will make him better at the end of the year. And we can give Anton more carries because we have so much confidence in his abilities.
Coach Williams also hopes that an improved passing game, with veteran quarterback Mason Phillips throwing to five quality receivers, will alleviate some of the pressure of defenders concentrating on just Diamond Williams and Gadson.
Our goal is to spread the offense out a little more, and that will give Diamond and Anton even more room to run, said coach Williams. Realistically, either guy can break a lot run for a touchdown on any given snap.
The backs will be working with a brand new offensive line. Coach Williams said the fact that his two backs are so quick and elusive means the line wont have to hold their blocks as long. That should help with the transition.
And while offense will be their main focus, both Diamond Williams and Gadson will play important roles on defense at two of the linebacker positions.
Diamond Williams played a lot of linebacker as a sophomore, but saw limited duty on defense last year. Gadson was converted to linebacker last year.