Adjusting the formula: Pirates count on two-back approach to deliver another title
When Olathe High School won the Class 2A state football championship in 2008, its offensive formula was pretty straightforward.
David Rhodes to the left, David Rhodes to the right, David Rhodes up the middle.
At season’s end, Rhodes had not only helped lead the Pirates to the first state championship in school history, but he had rushed for 2,478 yards on 290 carries.
But with Rhodes graduated, and getting reps on the Mesa State College practice squad as a freshman, the Pirates were left to figure out how to replace his yardage, which totaled almost 11⁄2 miles.
Pirates coach Ryan Corn knew it wasn’t going to be one player, but a group of talented ball carriers, who would get the job done.
Meet senior running backs Dylan Markley and Pablo Payan.
“We knew we had to open it up,” Corn said.
Markley saw a lot of time last year on the defensive side of the ball and on special teams, but Payan entered the year as a pretty green player. Last season, he had only two rushing yards on one carry.
“Coach talked to me during the summer and told me we could use my speed,” Payan said. “I thought, ‘All right, I’ll step it up.’ “
Payan has done just that. Despite missing three games to injury, he’s still racked up 917 yards on the ground on 77 carries.
“Pablo’s a great athlete,” Corn said. “He’s averaging 12 yards per carry, and when you put him on the other side of Markley, we can go with both guys with a lot of success.”
Payan and Markley have been a tough two-back attack for the Pirates. Markley has rushed for 1,584 yards this season.
The third piece to the Pirates’ approach is quarterback Garhett Jurgens.
The third-year starter has doubled his output from last season, rushing for 748 yards. That’s not bad for a player whose status on the field was in jeopardy approaching the first game.
“He was very questionable heading into the season,” Corn said. “He dislocated his shoulder at camp, and to have him overcome that and be playing the way he has this season is huge.”
The Olathe running game will be just as important as it’s always been heading into today’s 1 p.m. quarterfinal game at Kent Denver. This is the second straight year the Pirates are playing at Kent Denver in the quarterfinals. Olathe won 27-6 last season.
Corn said he’s an expecting a motivated Sun Devils team in the playoff rematch.
“We’ve got a rivalry going,” Corn said. “Last year we left a bitter taste in their mouth. Nobody wants to lose at their own house, so they’ll be geared up.”
Corn could also be expecting a tough game because Kent Denver took care off last year’s state runner-up, Erie, 20-7 in the first round.
“They are a year older and a little bit of a different team,” Corn said. “They knocked off Erie, which I think nobody expected.”
The Sun Devils are led by Tyler Jackson, who has rushed for a Rhodes-like 2,328 yards this season.
Jackson has the ability to have a monster game, with seven games of more than 200 yards.
“They’re an old-fashioned I-formation team with a great back,” Corn said. “They try to get the ball in their play-makers’ hands, and they are good overall.”