If there’s one criticism of Dominick Norris, it’s this: His taste in music while in the Vista del Lago weight room is horrible. The only bad rap against Norris, according to at least one teammate, is his like of bad rap.
And if that’s the lone injustice the Sac-Joaquin Section’s leading running back has committed against society then he and the Eagles will be just fine this postseason.
Norris and his Eagles teammates were in tune Thursday night at home in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs as Norris rushed for 167 yards and touchdowns of 1 and 48 yards to power No. 5-seeded Vista past No. 12 Cordova 49-20.
Vista’s defense allowed just fourfirst downs in the first half and hounded the Lancers’ talented junior quarterback Johnele Sanders all night. Vista won 54-33 in a mid-September nonleague game when Norris ran for 230 yards and three touchdowns, and Sanders threw for 343 yards and five touchdowns.
He had two TD tosses Thursday, but both came too late to be a factor. Vista quarterback Grant Patterson had the hot hand Thursday. Patterson, a sidearm slinging junior, had touchdown passes of 27, 50, 19 and 9 yards.
Patterson sang duets with Nate Hollinghaus, James Viet and twice with Chad Wilson – music to the Eagles’ ears, and perhaps for offensive lineman Andrew Cokley, it’ll drown out Norris’ selection.
“He has the worst taste in music of anyone on the planet,” said Cokley. “He’s always playing this crappy rap from Lil Pump, all that current modern rap like Gucci Gang. All these trash acts. Man, he really irritates me. I’m more into Biggie, Tupac, good stuff like that.”
Norris laughs at the Cokley’s verbal assault. They’ve been friends and teammates for more than half of their lives.
“I can listen to anything and I’m just messing with him,” Norris said. “Me and my family listen to classic rock, which I also like. It’s all in fun. We all like to listen to loud music when we lift. It gets us going.”
Norris had 1,977 yards in the regular season, and five carries into the game Thursday he became the first Vista running back to eclipse the 2,000-yard mark in a season. His 21 rushing touchdowns were tied for the section lead with Bradshaw Christian’s Mateo Bromstead after the regular season.
As a receiver, Norris thrives in gaining yards after the catch, crushing defenders along the way. But he’s a smart runner in the open field, too. He waits for defenders to open their hips as they move onto a closing angle and then Norris bolts the other way. This makes it almost impossible for the defender to rotate their hips the other way and catch up to Norris, who by then has added 5 or 6 yards to the space between them.
“Dom is a really, really bright kid but he has tremendous vision, probably the best vision of any back I’ve been around,” Vista del Lago coach Mike Struebing said. “He has a natural feel for the game and when you couple those two things together it creates a tremendous back.”
Struebing took Norris out of the game with 4:30 left in the third quarter. Norris stood on the sidelines with his team leading 43-6, no doubt resting for next week’s game at No. 4 Patterson, who thumped No. 13 East Union, 63-28.
Norris was a linebacker for much of his playing career, first in youth football and then freshman and sophomore years at Vista. Struebing said he toyed with the idea of Norris at inside linebacker at the start of last season, but once Norris became the clear starter at running back he wanted make sure Norris had enough gas in the tank at the end of games to put them away.
Norris’s running style is innate but also developed through countless hours watching film.
“I kind of have that basic instinct that when I’m downfield I like to attack guys with the angle and maybe a stiff arm and breakaway from there,” Norris said. “Last year, I wasn’t as good in the open field. But this year I’ve really worked on that and I never want the first guy to tackle me and I keep pushing my legs for those extra yards. Plus, I work hard in the gym. I like to lift.”
Vista del Lago 49, Cordova 20
Cordova (7-4) 0 6 6 8 - 20
Vista (7-4) 11 14 24 0 - 49
V – Norris 1 run (pass good)
V – Bader 30 field goal
V – Bader 44 field goal
V – Hollinghaus 27 pass from Patterson (pass good)
C – Colvin 7 pass from Sanders (pass fails)
V – Bader 27 field goal
V - Wilson 50 pass from Patterson (pass fails)
V – Norris 48 run (pass fails)
V – Veit 19 pass from Patterson (pass fails)
V – Wilson 9 pass from Patterson (run fails)
C – Estrada 81 yard kick return (run fails)
C – Estrada 48 pass from Sanders (Estrada run)