Waylen Cozad had 396 rushing yards after five weeks of action. He had almost half that total output by halftime Friday as the Placer Hillmen walloped the host Center Cougars, 33-7.
Cozad had 195 yards at the half on just nine carries. That total was boosted by runs of 59 and 92 yards. The 92-yarder gave the Hillmen (6-0) a 19-0 cushion and helped the three-time defending Pioneer Valley League champs start league play off right. Cozad also scored on a 10-yard pass from Marcus Ante to open the rout and a 14-yard run to end the half. With the damage done, Cozad didn’t take a handoff the entire second half and most of the Hillmen starters on both sides of the ball rested the final 24 minutes.
“I hurt my hamstring on that last (TD) run and coach said to shut it down,” the senior running back and safety said. “I should be ready for next week.”
But had the senior running back and strong safety not made the right decisions after last season, Cozad may not have been on the field Friday night.
Placer head coach Joey Montoya said Cozad has made a huge turnaround since his junior season. He’s rededicated himself to the sport, Montoya said, and has become a senior leader when his future on the team was in doubt. Montoya wouldn’t elaborate on what Cozad confronted, only that he’s proud that Cozad has made the right decisions.
The stiff-arm was working throughout the game.
Placer running back Waylen Cozad
“I’m so proud of him,” Montoya said. “He’s learned some hard lessons and has become a leader.”
Cozad is the type of player that has the speed and size, at 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, to generate bruising inertia. His stiff-arms look like lances during a medieval jousting competition. His shoulder pads become battering shields.
On the 92 yarder, called a 33 Cross Sweep, Cozad saw one defender downfield and made him talk to the hand.
“The stiff-arm was working throughout the game,” Cozad said.
He said he’s been contacted by Southern Oregon and UNLV, but neither has offered a scholarship – they’re only keeping tabs. He’ll likely go the junior college route, he said, with American River College a likely landing spot.
6-0 Placer’s record this season
“I’d like to get some more experience,” Cozad said. “The ARC coaches said they’ll be watching too.”
Cozad’s defensive mates put on a show, too. The Hillmen held the Cougars to 239 total yards – just 166 in the first half, when the Placer starters played. Owen Scott’s 81-yard kickoff return to start the second half allowed Montoya to put in every player that suited up Friday.
“It was great to give everyone an opportunity to play,” Montoya said. “That was my favorite part of the game.”
Mark Billingsley is a Carmichael-based freelance writer: email@example.com, @editorwriter001.