Hale has Pirates running strong

Hale has Pirates running strong

November 29th, 2010 by Ward Gossett in Sports - Preps

South Pittsburg coach Vic Grider has been reduced to repeating himself when he speaks about Pirates running back Raquis Hale. He has apparently run out of accolades.

Other coaches were willing to stand in after Hale earned another Times Free Press Player of the Week honor.

"He's the best combination of size and speed that I have seen in our district since [former South Pitt running back/linebacker] Eddie Moore. That separates him from other backs," Lookout Valley coach Tony Webb said.

Moore played for the Pirates in the late nineties and signed with the University of Tennessee before enjoying a brief stint in the NFL.

Hale had another special night with Moore-like numbers on Friday, boosting his season rushing total to more than 2,200 yards, which is somewhat surprising since he sat out at least a half in most of his team's 13 games.

Against Coalfield on Friday he ran for 293 yards on 16 carries, an average tote of 18.3 yards as the Pirates sailed to a 41-point halftime lead on the way to a 54-6 semifinal victory. The win ensured South Pittsburg of another state finals trip -- their third since 2007 -- and they'll play unbeaten Jo Byrns (14-0) at 1 p.m. EST Friday at Tennessee Tech.

"Everything I've heard about him is that he's a better person than he is a player. That goes a long way to helping your team if you've got a kid with that kind of talent, who's coachable and wants to get better," Webb said.

Hale this season has accumulated 2,239 yards which is 200 yards shy of the school record set by Robert Robinson in 1997. He ran for 235 in the Pirates' first playoff game and added 320 in Week 2 before picking up 293 Friday night.

As usual, South Pittsburg has been a scoring machine and averaged 45 points per game thus far this season. More than a third of their total 608 points belong to Hale.

Those yards and touchdowns and the accompanying accolades, though, Hale willingly shares with the Pirates offensive linemen.

"I'm proud of the offensive line," he said Friday. "They always help me. I tell them if they get me a hole, I'll get the yards we need."

The hard-working guys up front include center Cody Branham, guards Coltin Blevins and Jakoby Reynolds, tackles Cody Wordlaw and Aubrey Earvin and tight end Josh Wilson.

Both blockers and runner were highly effective in the first two quarters when Hale got all but one of his carries, 201 yards and three touchdowns. His fourth score came on a 92-yard run eight minutes into the third quarter before coaches brought him to the sidelines and gave freshman Jijuan Lankford a shot at playoff experience. Lankford responded with an 82-yard score in the fourth period.

Lankford, though, is biding his time as Hale shoulders the load for at least one more game and one more win, a win that would give this senior group 50 victories for their careers.

"I think the kid will be a running back at the next level, and I think he will be successful at any level," Webb said.

Contact Ward Gossett at wgossett@timesfreepress.com or 423-886-4765.