NFL, college and high school teams have since tried to recreate similar running tandems in an effort to keep defenses off balance.
As the Bartow County high school football season has progressed, so has the utilization of two running backs, one big and one fast, and the results have been successful thus far.
Adairsville’s Tristin Smith emerged last season as the primary running back for the Tigers. Smith still provides tough running between the tackles, but now has a speedier backfield mate in sophomore Sidnee Johnson. Johnson has averaged more than 100 yards his last three games, while Smith has averaged nearly 50 yards in those contests. The power-speed combination has led Adairsville to a 4-2 record, good enough for third in Region 5-AAA.
Meanwhile, Cartersville has utilized a three-back rotation for most of the season. However, an injury to senior tailback Brandon Long resulted in a split of carries between junior Kalin Heath and sophomore Tiamon Pennymon. The 5-foot-7 Long had been the primary tailback for the Canes and exhibited his agility and quick-cut ability to accumulate 347 yards on 38 carries in five games. Standing at 6 foot 1, Heath has both the power and speed to be effective as a runner in between the tackles. Heath has 324 yards on the season on 22 carries for an average of nearly 15 yards per attempt.
For Cass, Chaz Rokins has emerged as the leading candidate if the Colonels need to churn out tough yards. He finished the month of September with two 60-plus-yard rushing games. The speed running back has varied from game to game for the Colonels, most recently becoming Kelin Wells. Although primarily a slot receiver, Chris Morton has seen some carries and has shown tremendous big-play ability as well.
The Woodland Wildcats had struggled to find a consistent running game the past few seasons, often relying on quarterback scrambles to gain yards on the ground. Although they lost to North Paulding on Sept. 27, senior Isaiah Ross ran for 52 yards. The game was the first in which head coach Vince DiLorenzo utilized Ross as much in the backfield and the move has since jump started his team’s offense. Friday against Paulding County, Ross ran for 101 yards on the ground, providing hard fought yardarge in between the hash marks. The Paulding County game saw the emergence of the “thunder and lightning” combination for the Wildcats with Ross as the power back and Quadre Allen as the speed threat. Allen ran eight times for 49 yards and caught the ball out of the backfield as well, catching four passes for 36 yards.
The emergence of having a two-back backfield with differing running styles is not a foreign concept. However, as the season has progressed, it has become more evident Bartow County teams are making a concerted effort to utilize the “thunder and lightning” combination.