Elijah Dotson fancies himself as something of a culinary enthusiast.
The Antelope High School senior running back beams while describing his favorite meal.
“I love to cook, and nothing beats my tacos,” he said. “I add avocado and spices, sometimes cayenne pepper. I call those tacos the ‘Dotson Swagger.’ ”
There’s a lot of swagger to Dotson’s game when he carries the ball for the No. 8 Titans. He’s cooked up quite a season. But Dotson’s penchant for the big play doesn’t include bravado or bluster.
“I score a touchdown and hand the ball to the referee and get ready to go to work again,” he said. “I just stick to business.”
Business has been plentiful.
Elijah’s fun to watch. He’s a very explosive player, unbelievably strong ... unbelievably humble.
Matt Ray, Antelope coach, on Elijah Dotson
The 5-foot-10, 185-pound Dotson has rushed for 862 yards on 60 carries, a gaudy 14.4 yards per attempt. He has 13 rushing touchdowns and 16 overall for the 5-0 Titans, who seek to repeat as Capital Valley Conference champions. Dotson has blasted through tacklers up the middle and beaten defenders to the corner and downfield for long scoring sprints. And if his running style looks familiar, or the last name, there’s good reason.
Dotson’s father, Robert, was the area’s top tailback as a senior in 1992, when he powered Grant to its first Sac-Joaquin Section championship with a 2,000-yard season. And father is a big fan of son.
“Oh man, that’s my buddy boy,” Robert said. “I’m so proud. When he was playing Pop Warner youth football, my oldest son would tell me, ‘Dad, he’s really good.’ And you know what? He is really good!”
Robert said he had flashbacks while watching the season opener against Nevada Union in Grass Valley. His son rushed for 179 yards on 15 carries, none more emphatic than a 73-yard touchdown burst that included three stiff-arms to tacklers.
“Three in a row – I’ve never seen that before,” Robert said. “I was in the stands with my mom (Lydia Dotson), and we jumped and screamed. One stiff arm, then another, then another. Wow. My mom yells at games just like when she watched me play. And it’s the same thing – ‘Go baby, go!’ ”
Robert added, “Elijah is a better player than I was. I gave him the title as the best running back in the family.”
I learned as a sophomore that football isn’t everything. There are more important things than sports, like school. We all need school. It’s there for us to learn, to get better, and it’s up to us to maximize that.
Elijah Dotson, Antelope running back
Dotson was inspired for the Nevada Union game by the loss of his grandfather, also named Robert, who died from cancer at 66 the day before.
Dotson had more than 12 carries just once this season. He has scoring runs of 62, 73, 77 and 80 yards (twice), and he has an 83-yard touchdown reception. His 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Ponderosa tied the national record.
Titans coach Matt Ray understands the drill: get the ball to Dotson.
“Oh yeah, of course,” Ray said with a laugh. “Elijah’s fun to watch. He’s a very explosive player, unbelievably strong ... unbelievably humble.”
The humility has come in various forms. Three years ago, older brother Dajon Brown was struck by three bullets on his way to a friend’s house in Sacramento, a crime that remains unsolved. Dajon was paralyzed from the neck down. Dotson was so shaken that his grades slipped.
“My brother is so strong, and he motivates me every day,” Dotson said. “Motivation is a great thing. I learned as a sophomore that football isn’t everything. There are more important things than sports, like school. We all need school. It’s there for us to learn, to get better, and it’s up to us to maximize that.”
Dotson has sported a 3.5 GPA since his junior year. Schools from the Mountain West, Big Sky and Pacific-12 conferences have expressed interest. Robert attended small-college Central State in Ohio. Though he found success on the field, Robert said he wasn’t “mature enough, emotionally, to stick it out. So I came home.”
“I would do it differently now,” said Robert, who works locally in home improvement.
Said the younger Dotson, “That message has already sunk in. I’m not afraid to work in anything, school and football. I want to do well for my family and my school.”