Mesa Ridge has built a sterling tradition of running backs in recent years. It appears 2012 may be no different.
The Grizzlies rebounded from a first-game loss with a resounding 48-14 win at home over 3A Sierra on Friday – led of course by a bruising running game.
Coach Rob Braaten’s newest horses in the Mesa Ridge stable are Curtis Crockett and Tremell Stanley. The 5-foot-9, 180-pound Crockett showed off his arsenal of speed and field vision on the third play from scrimmage – a 53-yard gallop that set up a quick 7-0 lead.
“They (Crockett and Stanley) are both good running backs, but they’re also both good defensive players as well, so it’s nice to have them on both sides of the ball,” Braaten said. “We can platoon them a little bit and they’re getting some great stuff done for us.”
Crockett ran for 83 yards in the first quarter and eclipsed the century mark just three minutes into the second quarter. His backfield mate, Stanley, also got into the act, rushing for 53 yards and a touchdown in the first half and totaling 75 yards and two scores for the game.
“We work really well together and we push each other because we have a competition to see who is going to get more playing time,” Stanley said. “Curtis is more of the speed guy and I like to run downhill and in your face and I like to get the hard yards.”
Mesa Ridge has enjoyed three consecutive stellar seasons from its featured running backs. Philip Rhodes rumbled for 2,161 yards in 2009 and 1,373 in 2010. Devante Johnson picked up where Rhodes left off, running for 1,732 last season.
However, this season the Grizzlies appear to want to make an effort to strengthen the passing game. Quarterback Cody Groff will be the man slinging the ball around to provide a balance to the patented running game.
Groff was 5-for-8 for 64 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter against the Stallions and added a third touchdown toss in the third quarter. He knows that the run can set up the pass, and vice versa.
“We’ve always been a team that’s been a threat on the ground, but having a passing game will expand our offense a lot,” said Groff, who now has seven touchdown passes through two games. “We’ve always generated great running backs and to be able to set up the pass with the run is really nice.”
After an opening-week win against Wasson, Sierra ran into a much bigger and stronger 4A team Friday night. The Stallions’ first touchdown came at 4:14 of the third quarter when Remmon Brown ran it in from two yards out on fourth-and-goal. The other came on the last play of the game.
Coach Dean Huffman knows that building up the program is a process that will take some time.
“Our guys fought and they scored twice and played until the end,” Huffman said. “The Mesa Ridge program is rolling, and Sierra just isn’t there yet, but we will be. Their zone blocking was killing us tonight and their lineman got to the second level and got the job done.”