In preparing for running backs large and powerful or diminutive and fast, Elk Grove High School coach Chris Nixon learned his defense didn’t need a warning.
It was already in tune with what was chugging down the tracks.
Be it Beau Bisharat of Jesuit, DeShawn Collins of Grant or Trey Nahhas of Monterey Trail, Elk Grove braced for a battle in Delta League play.
“The guys knew who was coming,” Nixon said. “They refer to those runners as Superman 1, Superman 2, Superman 3, and they all come with capes.”
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The regular season saw impressive performances by running backs, and the trend has continued into the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs. Nixon doesn’t have just one running back at his disposal. He has three and admits to being “a bit spoiled” with the breakaway ability of Eltoro Allen and the might of Manny Scott-Anderson and Spencer Sheff. Allen had 184 yards and two touchdowns on five carries in a 69-7 rout of Vintage in a Division II playoff opener Friday.
“It’s an up year for running backs,” Nixon said. “You feel good having one of these guys.”
Bisharat, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound junior, is a mix of strength and burst. He ran for 309 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries in Jesuit’s 27-0 D-I opening-round victory over Gregori of Modesto.
Collins, an explosive 5-8, 170-pound junior, rushed for 273 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries in Grant’s 42-23 victory over Patterson in a D-II opener. The previous week, he ran for 275 yards and four scores against Jesuit as the Pacers won the Delta title.
Nahhas, a quick, strong 6-1, 190-pound senior, ran for 242 yards and two touchdowns on 35 carries as Monterey Trail beat Cosumnes Oaks 29-28 in D-I action.
In D-III, 5-10, 180-pound junior Colby Carrera of Vista del Lago rushed for 211 yards and four touchdowns on 34 carries to rally the Eagles past American Canyon 42-28. And in D-V, Colfax’s Tim Rawlins, a 5-10, 185-pound senior, ran for 172 yards and four touchdowns on 22 carries in a 42-35 win over Summerville.
The most impressive playoff outing belonged to Marcel Brown of Rio Linda. The 5-10, 205-pound senior raced for 349 yards and five touchdowns on 19 carries in a 62-51 D-III victory over Placer.
A closer look
▪ Bisharat of Jesuit and Nahhas of Monterey Trail run with fury, their coaches say. Bisharat, generating recruiting interest from Pacific-12 Conference teams, worked on his body and game in the offseason, including squats, “to get some power to launch my body into others.”
“I love playing this position,” said Bisharat, who has rushed for 1,651 yards and 23 touchdowns, including scoring runs of 94, 83 (twice), 71, 70 and 59 yards. “Every time I get the ball, you want to break free and think, ‘Going to the house.’”
Said Elk Grove’s Sheff, also a linebacker, “You feel it when Bisharat hits you.”
Nahhas said running the ball is a form of “controlled” dominance. He is the featured back in a run-heavy veer offense and has run for 2,136 yards and 28 touchdowns. He had 45 carries for 272 yards and two touchdowns against Grant, 232 yards and two touchdowns on 40 carries against Elk Grove, 174 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries against Jesuit and 345 yards and six touchdowns on 20 carries against Davis.
“Just a stud, a phenomenal player,” Elk Grove defensive coordinator Jeff Carlson said.
Nahhas invites contact but appreciates the open field, too.
“The objective is to not get tackled,” said Nahhas, who has a recruiting trip to Cal this weekend. “I enjoy grinding out the tough yards, spinning off people, and to run over people? It feels good. My dad says it’s ‘dragging fatties.’”
▪ Collins of Grant and Carrera of Vista del Lago started their junior seasons playing other positions. Collins was a receiver and Carerra a linebacker, but both were asked to make the switch. Collins stepped in because of injuries and hasn’t lost his job. He has 2,033 yards and 26 touchdowns, averaging 12.0 yards a carry.
“He’s quiet, doesn’t say much,” Grant coach Mike Alberghini said. “(He) isn’t big, but he really plays big.”
Said Collins: “I just wanted to play anything this season to help the team. I’m having a good time, but the credit has to go to the offensive line.”
Carrera was inserted into the backfield in Week 4 when Vista was desperate for a running game after an 0-3 start. Vista hasn’t lost since with Carrera rushing for 1,529 yards and 31 scores.
“He took his chance and literally ran with it,” Vista coach Mike Struebing said.
With the Eagles trailing American Canyon by two touchdowns in the third quarter, Carrera told his teammates, “This isn’t our last game. Let’s run it right at them.” Carrera scored two more touchdowns to extend the season.
▪ Rio Linda’s Brown has 1,760 yards and 27 scores. His coaches challenge him weekly to live up this nickname: “Marvel.” And he did against Placer, helping the Knights rally from 25 down. Brown also persuaded his coaches to have him return kickoffs to spark a rally.
“I just wanted to help us get back in it,” said Brown, who has generated Pacific-12 recruiting interest. “I told the coaches, ‘I can take it back to the house.’ I just know football means the world to me, and I didn’t want to let my teammates down.”
Rio Linda coach Justin Reber is glad he obliged his star runner.
“We’re down 39-14,” Reber said, “and Marcel says, ‘I’m not losing this game. I’m returning this kickoff for a touchdown.’ Twelve seconds later, he went 99.9 yards on the return, and from then on, it was his game. Best prep performance I’ve ever seen.”
Said Placer coach Joey Montoya: “That was the best game I’ve seen a player have. He beat us.”
▪ Rawlins is the fourth sibling from his family to play football at Colfax, and the Falcons couldn’t be happier. With 1,603 yards, he eclipsed his brother Pat’s school rushing record for a season. This season, Rawlins also has 30 touchdowns, one more than Pat had in two varsity seasons, giving him a school-record 45 career touchdowns.
Colfax coach Tony Martello normally likes to throw, but with Rawlins, he likes to control the clock, calling him “a special runner.”
Said Rawlins, simply: “I’m just trying to help my guys.”
Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD.