Plan on Northwest’s play calling to be more varied when it plays Kapaun Mount Carmel, Class 5A’s top-ranked football team, on Friday at Cessna Stadium.
During the Grizzlies’ 31-24 win over Carroll on Sept. 4, they relied heavily on quarterback Kevin Folsom. But Northwest coach Steve Martin deems 20-plus carries too many for Folsom.
“Kevin will get mad at me; he wants to run the ball,” Martin said. “But we want to keep him healthy. Be smart. He can’t take a physical beating. He can’t carry the ball that many times a game anymore, that’s for sure.”
Folsom had 26 carries for 116 yards against Carroll. He also was 20 for 28 passing for 227 yards.
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Northwest, ranked fifth in Class 6A, has other options with running backs Jahlyl Rounds and Tony Joyner. They combined for 101 rushing yards in the opener.
“I don’t want to say we had to force them to get along, but they were competing for a starting job,” Martin said. “… There was nothing negative out of it, but you could tell if one guy had a big run, the next guy was trying to one-up him.”
The competition thrills Martin.
“When you have a stable of backs and they’re all trying to do whatever they can with every carry, you get squirmish when the guy behind wants to run hard,” Martin said. “We welcome any guy that wants to compete. Our kids do a good job of that. They’ve taken the running-back competition to a new level.”
But there’s a camaraderie between the two, which is why they block so well for each other.
“That one block that I have or he has can lead to a touchdown,” Rounds said. “For example, last week, he had a big block and I got into the end zone. Kevin had a block for me and I scored — and we won.
“The little things add up and can create a big season for us.”
Rounds and Joyner both are 5-foot-11, 200 pounds, and can earn the difficult yards up the middle.
“Tony is a straight bruiser, not afraid to run over people,” Martin said. “He’s got elusive speed that people don’t know. If the offensive line gives him a hole, he’ll burst through. He won’t get caught. He has a chance to be a home-run hitter. He has a chance to grind it out and make people look silly in the hole.”
Rounds sets himself apart because he sees the field well and has speed.
Against Carroll, he appeared to be stopped up the middle early in the third quarter, but he bounced outside and ran 28 yards for a touchdown.
“Jahlyl’s strength is his vision. He makes so many good runs, and he’s elusive for a big kid,” Martin said. “It was one of those things that we had to get him to press the line of scrimmage before making cuts.
“When you’re playing ball in middle school and you’re better than anyone, you can run around like backyard football. But if he presses the line of scrimmage before a cut, he can make some good runs.”
Northwest will be tested against Kapaun.
Kapaun senior Brock Monty is a mobile quarterback with improved arm strength. He had 184 passing yards, two passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown in a 35-20 win over East on Sept. 4.
Kapaun running back Alexander Norris is dangerous, as well. He had 14 carries for 273 rushing yards and a touchdown against East.
In 2014, Northwest rebounded from an opening-season loss to Carroll with a comeback win over Kapaun. After trailing 17-14, the Grizzlies scored 21 unanswered, and then added two more touchdowns after a Kapaun score.
Monty had 169 rushing yards and Norris 101.
“Kapaun has our kids’ attention, that’s for sure,” Martin said.