Raider backfield continues dominance without SchankSeptember 12, 2018
By HENDRIX MAGLEY
For the past three seasons, senior running back Tucker Schank has been passing along wisdom and skills to the younger running backs on the Southridge football program in the form of showing them what to do by his performances on the field.
But now, after missing the past three games due to a lingering back injury, Schank has had to pass along his leadership in a little bit of a different way — vocally.
“Usually in the past I’ve always tried to be a leader by example, because I’m kind of a quiet temperament-type of person,” Schank said. “But being injured and not being able to be out on the field has turned me into a vocal leader, at least I’ve tried to be. It’s not really something I’m used to, but I’m doing the best I can by giving suggestions to the guys on the sideline or even running through drills with them during practice.”
Even with Schank missing a significant amount of time this season, the Southridge Raiders (3-1, 2-0) have still been their usual dominant self on the gridiron in terms of the run game, as they’ve amassed 1,119 rushing yards and they average about 280 yards per game.
In last week’s 69-3 rout of PAC foe North Posey, the Raiders rushed for 546 yards, with five players finishing with 70 yards or more — junior Cole Calvert (145), sophomore quarterback Colson Montgomery (119), senior Seth Nunamaker (100), sophomore Parker Kippenbrock (95) and senior Caden Harmon (70). The Raiders have been able to run so well behind a strong offensive line that’s led by Matt Gentry, Connor Oxley, Devin Murphy, Tyler Bolen, Wyatt Kramer, Sam Schroeder, Ben Hudson, Logan Seger and Chase Taylor.
The Raiders have always been known to have a strong rushing attack, and it’s something the coaching staff preaches early and often. When the running game starts to work, it creates more opportunities for ther offense and can give the defense more time to rest on the sideline and creates havoc for opposing defenses.
“It can wear down the opposing team a ton, and our offensive line has done a great job of grinding throughout the whole game,” Calvert said. “They just drive back piles and it wears our opponents down defensively. I mean, who wants to hit a lineman head on and try to get into the backfield every single play?”
If there’s anybody who would be interested in doing what Calvert just described, it’d be Calvert himself. He’s established himself as one of the premier defenders on the Raider defense. He has 165 career tackles, 23 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles to go along with two recoveries.
But this season, Calvert has also started to take over the role as Southridge’s No. 1 running back while Schank recovers from injury. Calvert only had 25 rushing attempts last season, as he was used often as a short distance or power back due to his size — he had five touchdowns last year. But this season, he leads the Raiders by a wide margin with 53 attempts for 311 yards to go along with five touchdowns as he’s been able to showcase his speed alongside his strength.
“Last year [Calvert] was able to get some reps. But getting reps and being in the game is a totally different thing,” Schank said. “Cole is starting to get his own feel for the game. Everybody has their own personal touch to it, and I like his.”
Calvert added: “I like the pressure back there, and Tucker has helped me in practice with what to work on and when to make the right cuts and everything. He’s helped to show me where the line is going and the right steps to make and stuff like that.”
Another player who’s had an increased workload due to Schank sitting out is sophomore quarterback Colson Montgomery. Through his first four career starts, Montgomery has put up solid numbers, throwing for 234 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. He has also made a large impact with his feet, having rushed for 287 yards and four touchdowns.
While Montgomery knew he was going to have a large impact this season, he thought he’d be able to rely on someone with the experience level of Schank in the backfield beside him. However, even with the senior leader on the sidelines, Montgomery has still been able to thrive.
“I thought I’ve handled it pretty well, and Tucker’s helped me out as much as he can,” Montgomery said. “Even though he had never been a quarterback, [Schank] has still helped to show me what Jayce [Harter] did last year, and I’m just keeping that in the back of my head.”
Schank added: “I feel like he’s been extremely composed, I mean he doesn’t even look like a sophomore. He commands the huddle and he commands his offense. At first he was kind of quiet, but now he has some confidence, and rightfully so. He’s been playing great. He’s developed his own way of leading, and that’s good to see, because you can’t force feed that to someone.,That’s something they have to develop on their own.”
While Schank continues to nurse the back injury, he’ll be leading the running back group from the sidelines with little tips and tricks that he’s learned from his four years of action.
Whether it be details about a certain play or just reminding them to keep their heads clear, he’s been there with them every step of the way throughout the season.
“I’ve been through a lot, so I can help them through things and just try to help them stay motivated and stay positive,” Schank said. “Whether it’s through positive reinforcement or negative reinforcement, [we] just have to make sure that they’re keeping in check and doing what they’re supposed to do.”
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