Go ahead, overlook Andale senior Jake Hattabaugh because he's a little on the short side. That won't hurt his feelings.
He's listed at 5-foot-8, but coach Gary O'Hair says that's probably with Hattabaugh wearing one-inch cleats. The running back has never been big, but with a short father (5-8) and mother (5-1), he didn't expect to be.
Yet height clearly doesn't matter with Hattabaugh.
"It's how you play," Hattabaugh said. "I always thought that if I was going to be short, I might as well get stronger and faster."
Never miss a local story.
Hattabaugh, a 2009 Class 4A wrestling champion at 145 pounds, shared carries in 2009 and still had nearly 1,000 rushing yards as he helped lead Andale to an 11-1 record.
He'll get the bulk of the carries this season for Andale, a run-first team. He likely will start the season at quarterback because he's got experience, but that could change as the season progresses.
"He's got everything you want in a running back," O'Hair said. "Other than the fact that he's not very big, he weighs 180 pounds, so he brings it a little bit. He's compact, he accelerates well. It's hard to knock him off his feet, and he sees the field well.
"He can break tackles, make people miss and spin off tackles. He does a good job of keeping his legs moving."
Hattabaugh, who continues an Andale tradition of stellar running backs listed around 5-8, uses his small stature to his advantage.
Defenders struggle to see him behind Andale's offensive linemen Devin Short, Jordan Strunk and Jake Sankey. So when Hattabaugh hits the hole, he's already got the momentum and can bull past. Throw in his quickness and agility, and he's dangerous.
"He's got a little lower center of gravity, so he's better at changing direction and getting down low," O'Hair said. "It's hard for bigger guys to get down to his level."
Hattabaugh plays sports year-round, including baseball, so he's never out of shape.
"I have good hips, strong, strong legs," he said. "It helps with being explosive, it helps when I run and when people hit me, it needs to come from a strong base."
In 2009, Hattabaugh was forced to play quarterback for the first two postseason games, both wins. That wasn't a stretch for him because he's played quarterback and running back since he started playing football in second grade.
"His best position is probably running back, because his height might be a disadvantage at quarterback," O'Hair said. "But he has a good arm, and he has so much experience there, we know we can go with him there.... We'd probably rather play Jake there at running back."
Hattabaugh also has toughness.
"One of the toughest things for a high school coach is to get defenders to wrap guys up," O'Hair said. "If you don't wrap him up, you probably won't get him. He can take a pretty hard shot, bounce off and keep going."
Hattabaugh dishes out the hits, too. O'Hair stresses that the best blockers will be in the backfield. Hattabaugh fits the bill.
"I like running the football," he said. "But I like running as fast as I can and taking someone down."
Tucker O'Hair and Blake Staats will benefit from having Hattabaugh out front. Hattabaugh will lay out defenders downfield to give a teammate a few more yards of room to run.
"A lot of times a guy who gets the ball a lot, all they care about is getting a lot of yards," O'Hair said. "That's not Jake. When it's his time to block, he does it, and he goes as hard as he can every time."