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PREP FOOTBALL: Catch Us If You Can (11/17)

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John Hardin's three running backs running wild

By Chuck Jones

Gone are the days of Woody Hayes’ famed 3 yards and a cloud of dust. Gone are the days of seeing college powers such as Oklahoma and Texas running the wishbone. Teams lining up in the I-formation or the Veer seem to be on the way out as well.

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The Wing-T offense might be headed down that same path, but it’s not going out of style at John Hardin, which has used the offense since the program began. The Bulldogs spice it up with their mind-blowing moves, breath-taking cuts and awe-inspiring runs.

With so many teams using spread offenses, John Hardin’s system has been just as explosive or electrifying as any pass-happy scheme or spread attack which wants to run the ball. The Bulldogs are averaging a staggering 319.8 yards a game, which is one of the state’s top rushing attacks.

So how do the Bulldogs describe it?

“Explosive,” John Hardin junior halfback Jeremy Harness said. “At any given time, one of us could break one. At any point, one of us could just go.”

There are countless adjectives to describe the Bulldogs offense, but explosive might be the best. The Bulldogs have totaled more than 3,800 yards and they have gained more than 200 yards in each game.

Harness is averaging 13.2 yards a carry and senior halfback Landon Savoy is right behind at 13.1. Junior fullback Quensie Brown averages 7.3 yards an attempt.

“I think it is near the top,” Savoy said when asked if this was the best John Hardin backfield. “I know it’s the most explosive. You usually just see those kind of numbers on video games. Those are Madden-like numbers.”

The running backs realize while they might get the credit, the offensive line has been the driving force for their success.

“Akeem (Hatchell), Pat (Crowe), Chris (Doss) and all those guys are doing a good job,” Quensie Brown said. “They’re the difference makers. We’re making all the yards and scoring all the touchdowns, but we wouldn’t have anything without them.”

John Hardin’s ground game has been the strength of the team since the program’s inception. Prior to this season, the Bulldogs averaged more than 260 yards a game in four of the previous five years. The only exception was last season when they rushed for 234 yards a game.

John Hardin coach Mark Brown realized the rushing attack would be improved this season, but even he didn’t expect to churn out these type of numbers.

“We expected to be good,” Mark Brown said. “What makes it so good is the balance we have within our running game. Did I expect us to average that much? Probably not. You never know what will happen. But it doesn’t surprise me that they’ve done it.”

Mark Brown knew exactly what he had in Savoy, who is a three-year starter. Savoy, the school’s all-time leading rusher and scorer, has rushed for 1,293 yards and 17 touchdowns on 99 carries.

“I think Landon’s matured a lot,” Mark Brown said. “One of the best runs he had the other night (against Oldham County) was a 3-yard gain on third-and-1. He stuck it up there and made sure we got the first. Earlier in his career, he might have danced around. He’s been very steady. The mental aspect has really improved with him.”

Harness made the move from receiver to halfback prior to the season. It’s a move that has paid off as Harness has rushed for 1,315 yards and 18 touchdowns on 101 attempts.

“Jeremy’s a natural runner,” Mark Brown said. “I think you started to see him come into his own about midway through the year. I think it was more physical than being a receiver and he had to get used to it. Once he did, he’s really improved.”

Savoy has been a good learning tool for Harness, who has pumped Savoy for knowledge. The two have watched film together of past John Hardin backs and Savoy sped up Harness’ learning curve.

“I think the first game it was a little bit different, but I felt more confident after that,” Harness said. “Coach (Andrew) Hundley and Landon showed me backs like Matt Denham and Landon has shown me a lot. That’s made it a little easier for me having him.”

Quensie Brown transferred from Fort Knox to John Hardin prior to the season after his father retired from the military. He arrived at John Hardin once practice began and had to get quickly up to speed.

“It was harder for Quensie than anybody,” Mark Brown said. “He had to learn all the plays while adjusting to new teammates and a new school. The fullback is a big part of our offense, but it just took him awhile to adjust. Once he caught on, he’s been doing a great job.”

The fullback plays an integral part of the John Hardin offense. Last season the position accounted for less than 700 yards – a season-low in recent years. But Quensie Brown has provided a spark from the spot, rushing for 702 yards and 12 touchdowns on 96 carries.

“I’m more comfortable now than ever,” Quensie Brown said. “I’ve gotten used to it. It takes some getting used to running in the middle. It’s different. It’s not really my strength. I think it’s my size that helps me. I always say done let the size fool you.”

Mark Brown admits the offense isn’t for everyone. While other backs across the state might get 25 to 30 carries each game, the Bulldog backs are putting up impressive numbers with a minimal workload. Plus, the offense demands backs block for one another which they’ve done without hesitation.

“We’re not selfish and that’s a great thing,” Savoy said. “Whether it’s me running or Jeremy or Quensie, we’re going to block for one another. We put egos aside and all that other stuff.

“That’s why I think we’ve done what we’ve done,” he added. “You don’t see those numbers from three backs. You might have one main person do it, but three? Two with 1,000 yards? That’s impressive. It’s something you only see in games where you create players.”

It might be an old-fashioned offense, but it gets modern-day results.

Chuck Jones can be reached at (270) 505-1759 or at cjones@thenewsenterprise.com

JOHN HARDIN’S RUNNING ATTACK

John Hardin’s ground game is averaging 318.6 yards a game. The Bulldogs ranked ninth in the state in rushing yards a game, according to the KHSAA Web site. Here’s a look at what the Bulldogs have done this season as well as breakdowns of halfbacks Landon Savoy and Jeremy Harness and fullback Quensie Brown.

Opponent                   Team         Savoy        Harness     Brown

Marion County             305           10-136       6-107         5-25

Meade County             238           8-100         12-102       10-35

North Hardin               315           14-127       13-117       13-81

Nelson County            233           11-120       12-82         7-39

Louisville Doss            256           6-77          6-118         4-23

Lexington Dunbar        350           6-124         8-67          5-55

Louisville Iroquois        368           2-46          3-124         5-94

Louisville Waggener     303           3-74          7-109         6-84

Bullitt Central              282           9-69          6-122         7-60

Central Hardin             463           10-206       13-116       11-51

Jeffersontown             490           9-166         7-156         12-89

Oldham County            235           11-48         8-95          11-66

Totals                        3,838        99-1,293    101-1,315   96-702