CHICKAMAUGA, Ga. -- Adam Vandiver laughed at the memory of his first experience on the new artificial playing surface at Gordon Lee High School.
The cat-quick junior running back and his Trojans teammates practiced for the first time on the AstroTurf field Monday in preparation for tonight's home opener against Dade County. What they found was, at least in Vandiver's experience, almost too much of a good thing.
"I was practicing yesterday and fell on my face a couple of times because you can cut so quickly," Vandiver said. "I'll get used to it over time and I know we're going to love it. It's going to be a lot of fun."
The school did not install the field for Vandiver and his twin-like fellow running back Klay Durham, but its fast surface will play right into their hands. Each is 5-foot-8 and 175 pounds and each runs a 4.5 40-yard dash, speed that will be used early and often this season as the Trojans look to return to the Georgia Class A playoffs for the first time in three seasons.
If last week's opening 25-7 win at Silverdale Baptist Academy is any indication, the two may become one of the most prolific duos in school history. They combined for 206 yards and three touchdowns on only 15 carries against the Seahawks as they ran inside and outside with great success.
"They give you multiple weapons," coach Kevin McElhaney said. "It's hard to find a pair at 170 pounds that run any harder than they do. They both have great vision, and whereas Adam's strengths are planting his foot and getting north and south, then making another cut and making someone miss, Klay's is using a pure burst of speed and getting into the second level. Both of them can go the distance if you give them a little crack, as they proved last Friday."
Vandiver's practice mishaps notwithstanding, the pair should, according to their coach, excel on the new field.
"One good thing about this field is that once you plant your foot, you can go, so it will benefit both of them," McElhaney said. "It's built for a speed type of game. Now it may take three or four weeks before it's second nature to them, but that's the good thing about playing these nonregion games first."
As with most Class A teams, most of Gordon Lee's starters play both sides of the ball, so while having to share carries might not be something a running back looks forward to, Vandiver and Durham appreciate the help.
"Sure, getting 25 carries would be great, but we both play both ways and on special teams, so it's best that we split carries," said Vandiver, who also starts at linebacker.
Added Durham: "When you've got two running backs like Vandiver and me, it's hard for teams to stop us when we're fresh for a whole game. We're usually in the game at the same time, but knowing you don't have to carry it all the time is good in the long run."
The long run is something the Trojans are concentrating on this year, as in not putting up the gear following game 10.
"We didn't finish games last year the way we should, and if we fix that we'll be all right," said the senior Durham. "The playoffs are our No. 1 goal this year, no doubt."
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...
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