Over the years I have done this column I have probably given more attention to the larger schools. I am not the only one, and in most cases it is justified. However, Augusta Christian’s program has produced several college players recently and they have won multiple state titles. Augusta Prep’s program just started, but they do have a few kids who could play at any high school level. And, finally, the Harlem Bulldogs have themselves a terrific back. They have had some good backs in the past, but it has been a few years since the ’Dogs have had a player who could challenge for player of the year. This may be that year.
Here are three running backs who have put up numbers that deserve a little recognition, and none of them are from the Big 4 Columbia County Schools.
Bryson Ashmore (Sr., Augusta Christian)
When Lions starting running back Thomas Banks went down with an injury, there was good reason for concern. After all, Banks ran for more than 1,400 yards and 15 TDs last season. However, Bryson Ashmore stepped up early in the season to fill the void left by Banks’ absense. Through AC’s first six games, Ashmore has rambled for 703 yards and six scores on just 75 carries. That is an amazing 9.4 yards per carry. Ashmore has looked so good that even though Banks is back from his injury, Ashmore is continuing to get his share of carries.
Nolan Brandon (Sr., Augusta Prep)
Augusta Prep rarely puts the ball in the air, and that is just fine with Brandon. The senior fullback is having a huge year in the Cavaliers’ triple-option attack. He ran for 184 yards and three touchdowns last week on 24 carries in Prep’s 41-6 win over East Atlanta. For the season, Brandon is among the top ground gainers in the state with 1,082 yards and 13 TDs on 155 carries.
Austin Burt (Jr., Harlem)
I saw Burt play once last year and that was all it took for me to keep an eye on him this season. Burt has not disappointed. In Harlem’s narrow loss to Westside last weekend, he might have been the best player on the field. He ran for 120 yards and a TD on 20 carries. Burt now has 614 yards and five scores on 108 carries. He is averaging 5.7 yards per carry. Burt, a powerful runner, should put up huge numbers before his career is over at Harlem.
There are some tremendous players at the Big 4 Schools this year. Lakeside has a half dozen players who could be in the running for county player of the year. Evans RB Ronnie Graham, Greenbrier DE Malcolm Thomas and a few other players have stood out as well, but the trio of backs above have put together an early season résumé worthy of some notoriety.