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2017: Year of the Running Back

Posted: November 1, 2017 - 12:45am

Columbia County is not known as a hotbed for great running backs. As a matter of fact, since 1971, there have been exactly TWO running backs from Columbia County to earn First Team All-State honors. Zack Scott (Evans) earned a First Team nod in 1995 and was an honorable mention in 1994, making him the only back to be recognized statewide in multiple seasons. Jonathan Finch (Evans) was a First Team selection in 2008 as the Knights finished the season 10-1.

Sure, there have been other great backs over the years. Lenny Springs could have easily been a First Teamer for the Knights in 1987. Also, the Harlem Bulldogs boasted a pair of First Teamers in 1961 (Hardy King) and 1970 (Ralph West). Augusta Christian, Lakeside, Greenbrier and Grovetown have each had backs that produced outstanding seasons. And, each year the county produces a 1,000-yard rusher or two. However, Columbia County has never seen anything like this year. There are six running backs (and at least one QB) that have or will likely top 1,000 yards this season.

Prior to the start of the season, we were well aware of the abilities of Evans senior Corey Watkins - and most expected DeAngelo Durham (Grovetown) to have a bounce-back season. There were up-and-coming backs like Greenbrier's JQ Brown too, but there was simply no way to forecast each of them and a trio of other backs would crush the 1,000-yard plateau. Four backs have already achieved the milestone and we still have a couple of weeks left in the regular season. Yes, the numbers being put up this year are incredible if it were one or two backs doing it, but the fact that six different backs are piling up these numbers is astounding.

Here is a look at the stable of running backs Columbia County boasts this year:

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B.J. Stone (Sr., Augusta Prep): 127 carries, 1,650 yards (12.9 per carry) and 18 TDs (in 10 games). Do not let the whole "private school thing" ruin your thoughts on Stone. He would use his low center of gravity and power to run at any level.

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JQ Brown (Jr., Greenbrier): 160 carries, 1,303 yards (8.1 per carry) and 19 TDs (in 9 games). Perhaps the area's most consistent runner. Brown has topped 100 yards in eight Greenbrier games this season. Even more impressive, considering most teams are keying on Brown.

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A.J. Brown (Jr., Harlem): 134 carries, 1,339 yards (10.0 per carry) and 152 TDs (in 8 games). Brown is super quick and elusive. He is capable of taking it to the house on any play.

Corey Watkins (Sr., Evans): 121 carries, 1,126 (8.3 per carry) and 17 TDs (in 9 games). Like, Brown, Watkins is a game breaker with electrifying speed. He has been as good as any player in the county for the past two seasons.

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Cameron Garnett (Freshman, Harlem): 93 carries, 937 yards (10.1 per carry) and 13 TDs (in 7 Games). Saying the future is bright is an understatement. This kid is the real deal. College coaches will learn the drive to Harlem by heart over the next few years.

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DeAngelo Durham (Sr., Grovetown): 116 carries, 842 yards (7.3 per carry) 14 TDs (in 9 games). Durham had over 1,400 yards as a sophomore at Aquinas and he has been terrific for Grovetown on both sides of the ball this year.

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Also, Evans QB Damekus Taylor has also rushed for more than 1,063 yards yards and an eye-popping 23 touchdowns.

Now, these kids are not doing this by themselves. We have some excellent coaches who are implementing stellar game plans. We have some extremely good offensive lines in the county too. Heck, maybe something is in the water. For whatever reason the county will have more 1,000 yard backs and players with double digit rushing touchdowns this year than any other year in county history.

And, to top it off, three of the six running backs featured will be back next year.

 

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