High School Sports

City League's top running backs square off tonight

Joseph Randle first heard the comparisons to Demarcus Robinson when both were playing sixth-grade football.

"Even when I played quarterback, it was, 'Who's better?' " said Randle, a Southeast senior. "'Joseph's better than D-Mac. D-Mac's better than Joseph.' We're two different kinds of running backs."

Tonight they'll be on the same field when Southeast (2-2) plays at Northwest (2-2).

Comparisons are inevitable. Randle and Robinson, Northwest's senior, are both Division I prospects. Robinson has orally committed to Kansas State, while Randle is uncommitted but has planned recruiting visits to Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri and Oklahoma State.

They're the City League's top running backs — Robinson leads with 615 rushing yards on 99 carries, while Randle has 484 on 74 carries.

And both have had stellar careers.

Robinson had 1,017 rushing yards as a sophomore, then in 2008 finished second to East's Bryce Brown in the City League with 1,693 yards, sixth in City League history. Robinson was selected to The Eagle's All-Metro team in 2008.

Randle, a two-time All-Metro selection, had 1,460 rushing yards in 2007 and 925 in 2008.

"A lot of people want to compare us, and we both do a lot for our teams," Robinson said. "We both have great vision, but we're different."

That's clear just by looking at them.

Robinson is 5-foot-8, 192 pounds; Randle is taller (6-2) and heavier (210).

"He's got a strong lower body, so it's hard to tackle him because he's so low to the ground," Randle said.

That benefits Robinson, who can bust through a hole in the middle of the line, gaining big chunks of yards. He's also got speed; he finished second in the 100 meters in the 2008 Class 6A track meet.

"You won't tackle D-Mac with an arm tackle," said Randle, who also plays in the Southeast secondary.

"He's very tough," Northwest coach Weston Schartz said of Robinson. "He will run you over. He weighs 192 pounds and he's fast and he's not afraid of contact. Against Kapaun, his helmet came off and he still lowered his head. He got a black eye from it."

While Randle is speedy, as well, he gains yards differently.

"He's more elusive," Robinson said. "He can make you miss."

Randle added: "I can hit the hole when it's there, but in the offense that we run, I have to make people miss to get some yards. It's expected that (Robinson) will get eight yards before he's touched. For me to get eight yards, I have to make four, five people miss, it seems like."

But he also uses his strength and breakaway speed, rarely getting caught from behind.

"I feel like, one-on-one, there's not many times I'll get tackled," Randle said. "I might juke you, I might throw you on the ground, I might stiff-arm you. There's no telling what I might do."

Probably the biggest difference between the two is versatility. Robinson isn't used much other than running the ball.

Randle not only plays offense and defense, he spends some time at quarterback and wide receiver.

"We try to utilize Joseph more in the passing game," Southeast coach Gary Guzman said. "We'll put him out there on routes, we'll run an empty set and put him at receiver. He's got great hands. Once he gets some hands on the ball, he can do some things."

One area that is definitely similar, though, is neither Robinson nor Randle wants to talk about the City League rushing title right now.

Northwest and Southeast entered the season as contenders for the City League title, but they've stumbled to 2-2 records, and Bishop Carroll has a stranglehold on the title with a 4-0 record.

Any focus by Robinson and Randle on the rushing title would be self-centered.

And, frankly, both want to win.

"If I get more yards than him and lose," Robinson said, "it doesn't mean nothing."

Randle agreed.

"That hasn't been my main goal," he said. "If it comes, great."