Most teams consider themselves fortunate if they have two effective running backs to put up yardage and give opposing defense a multiple looks.
Three backs to share the load? That’s usually the jackpot.
But in Bishop Carroll’s case, the Huskies have a four-pronged attack that features a blend of speed, finesse and brute strength.
“Ryan Woo and Josh Barzdo, with their speed, they’ve shown the ability to take it from the snap to the end zone pretty quickly,” Bishop Carroll coach Craig Sponsky said. “With Josh Chumrik and David Kephart, they’re hard-nosed tough runners. But they’ve also shown the ability to put it in the end zone.
“Of course, it all starts up front. We’ve progressively improved with our five offensive linemen and tight end, not only technique-wise but effort-wise. They’re opening up a lot of running lanes for all four of those kids.”
That might be an understatement.
The Huskies have rushed for 2,175 yards, an average of 310.7 a game and 6.8 per carry. With that type of ground game, it’s no coincidence Carroll is 6-1 heading into this weekend’s key game against LHAC rival Bishop McCort.
Last week, Bishop Carroll produced three 100-yard rushers and 523 net rushing yards in a 47-33 win at Cambria Heights. Woo led the way with 187 yards on 19 carries. Chumrik finished with 137 yards on only six runs. Quarterback Barzdo had 115 yards on 11 attempts.
Kephart had 84 yards on six rushes before leaving with an injury (Sponsky said Kephart’s status for this week will be determined on game day).
In that game alone, Carroll had seven rushing touchdowns.
“They share the wealth,” Sponsky said. “They’re collectively better when they all carry the football.”
With so many backs, one might worry about having enough carries to keep everyone in the backfield satisfied. Sponsky said he hasn’t had to deal with jealousy or players begging for the ball.
“It depends on what the defense is giving us and where we feel we have an opportunity to attack a defense,” the coach said. “It hasn’t been a concern, and we don’t anticipate it being a concern as far as who carries the football. That’s coming from the four kids. Actually, the two bigger kids enjoy blocking for Ryan and Josh Barzdo. But they’ve done well when they carry it.”
Woo has 1,006 rushing yards. Barzdo (586), Kephart (332) and Chumrik (263) each have big chunks of yardage.
The Huskies dominated in the area and District 6 throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s, even advancing to the 2003 state title game in Class A. But Bishop Carroll had gone four straight seasons without a winning record from 2006 through 2009. Last season was filled with injuries and near misses.
“It’s always rewarding because you get to work with great young men, and the trials and tribulations are different each year,” Sponsky said. “Last year we just had awful luck, whether it was injuries or whatever. But there are no complaints. That was last year.”
Complaints? Not this year.
Not with 2,175 rushing yards and four backs putting up big numbers.
q q q
1,000 club: The area’s 1,000-yard rushers through seven weeks included Conemaugh Township’s Brett Byers (167 carries, 1,089 yards), Forest Hills’ Nick Dudukovich (102-1,024), Woo (140-1,006) and Berlin’s Ian Sayler (86-1,005).
On deck? Chestnut Ridge’s Jude Donatelli (141-883).
q q q
Defensive mode: Johns-town’s Calvin Anderson has an area-best nine interceptions, three more than Ligonier’s Russell Markosky.
Bishop Carroll’s Chumrik has an area-high 13 sacks.
Ferndale’s Greg Walters has five fumble recoveries.
q q q
Big catch: Cambria Heights’ Bryce Brawley should surpass the 1,000-yard receiving mark this week. Brawley has 40 receptions for 997 yards entering Heights’ game against Richland.
Highlanders quarterback Caleb Vescovi leads the area with 1,757 passing yards.
Heights’ Erik Welteroth also is among the receiving leaders with 33 catches for 356 yards.
North Star’s Tony Strasiser has 32 catches for 693 yards. His brother, Max, quarterbacks the Cougars and has 1,185 passing yards.
q q q
The right foot: Forest Hills junior place-kicker Scott George has made one field goal on two tries and is 36 of 42 on extra-point attempts to lead the area with 39 kicking points.
Right behind him is Chestnut Ridge senior Matt Amick, with two field goals on three attempts and 32 of 33 extra-points for 38 points.
Ligonier’s Johnny Jones has 36 kicking points, with 33 extra-points and a field goal.
Overall, Jones has 84 points, including his eight touchdowns.
Bishop McCort’s Jordan Spangler also has 36 points, with an area-high four field goals and 18 extra-points.
Mike Mastovich is a sports writer for The Tribune-Democrat.