PHILADELPHIA Football coaches often talk about a back possessing the ability to break off a long gainer for a touchdown on any given play.
Indian River head coach Cory Marsell has seen first-hand the last three seasons what that kind of breakaway speed entails. And he still marvels at what senior running back Darrius Bryant has been able to do for the Warriors in each of his three varsity seasons.
Darrius accelerates faster than any back Ive ever coached, said Marsell, who has coached some mighty fast backs. He can reach top speed so quickly, hes often past defenders before they have a chance to get a hand on him.
Take last week for example. In a 51-30 win over Oswego, Bryant dazzled with touchdown runs of 80, 28 and 12 yards, and caught scoring passes from quarterback Kody Smith of 73 and 50 yards.
He also has TD runs of 66 and 82 yards to his credit this season, and caught a 52-yard scoring pass versus Fowler.
For the season, Bryants eight touchdowns have come on an astounding average of 55.4 yards per play, an amazing number even by todays point-per-minute standards.
Bryants stats are more amazing when you consider he is one of the smallest players on the Warriors roster, standing just 5-foot-9, 170 pounds dripping wet. And that is 20 pounds heavier when he came to the varsity as a sophomore.
Ive always been pretty small, so I get used to people telling me I cant do this or that, Bryant said. I think I play a lot bigger than that. Ive learned to use my speed to make up for being smaller.
Speed alone, however, is not what sets Bryant apart. Said Marsell, Darrius has really quick feet, and great vision. He can see the play develop in front of him, and almost always seems to make the right cut.
Bryant said being able to visualize whats coming is an instinct hes always had. When you cant run over people, you learn quickly how to run around them, he joked. Ive been working hard this year, and Ive had a lot of great blocking that makes my job a lot easier.
And Bryant almost never takes a clean hit. Hes been able to avoid serious injuries because of that ability, and because Marsell has been able to limit his touches with a number of good backs playing alongside him for three years.
Asked if hed like to get 20-to-25 carries a game, Bryant smiles and says, Sure. But I know coach isnt going to do that because we have other guys who can run the ball well and he doesnt want me to get hurt. That just makes everybody more dangerous.
Bryant caught Marsells eye as a youngster in the Indian River program.
As a freshman, Marsell thought Bryant was ready for the varsity. But Bryant wanted to stay down and perfect his craft on the junior varsity.
It didnt take Bryant long to make a splash on the varsity scene when he earned a starting berth as a sophomore. He went on to gain 1,116 yards on just 82 carries and scored 16 touchdowns.
The varsity game is so much faster, but I think I was ready for the speed and adjusted pretty quickly, Bryant said.
Last year, Bryant managed 78 carries for 934 yards and scored 10 more touchdowns. He worked hard in the weight room this summer to get stronger, and said he also feels his quickness has increased.
Marsell has tried to get Bryant as many touches as he can this season, using him out of the backfield on pass patterns to take advantage of his phenomenal quick-strike ability.
Asked if he set any goals for his senior season, Bryant said, Only to win our league and a sectional title. Anything else is just a bonus.
Marsell said Bryant has worked harder and harder each successive season to improve, and has also become a great role model for our young kids. Hes not a rah-rah type of kid, but the young guys certainly look up to Darrius.
Bryant said hes learned to be vocal when he has to be, and that he wants to show his teammates how to play the game right. On a young team that starts nine sophomores, that is particularly important.
As for seeing the end of his high school career in just a few short weeks, Bryant said hell miss my teammates and coaches the most. And the thrill of just being on the field.
With schools such as St. John Fisher, SUNY Cortland an the University at Albany showing interest, Marsell said Bryant has the potential to be a fantastic Division III back.
Bryant also plays safety and cornerback on defense. But its his dynamic performances on offense that draws most of the attention of opposing defenses.
So far, not many people have slowed him down, Marsell said.
Bryant and Indian River will be in action at home tonight in a big Class A National game against Whitesboro.
CYCLONES LOSE SODERQUIST
Watertown has lost one of its key players for the rest of the season due to an injury sustained early in last weeks loss to Whitesboro.
Junior Eric Soderquist, a wide receiver/defensive back who also handled the punting and place-kicking duties for the Cyclones, suffered a collapsed lung and three broken ribs on the second play of the game following an awkward hit.
Erics probably our best all-around athlete so its going to be a big loss, WHS head coach Vince Williams said. Hes only played football for a couple of years, but Eric has become a very good player. Well really miss his speed and ability to make plays.
Three other players injured in that game are expected to be back for tonights game at Carthage. Linebacker Justin Garcia, defensive lineman Colby King and defensive end John Salyers are recovering and have been practicing this week.