Rance Harden wasn't supposed to be Boyd-Buchanan's "A" running back this season; rather, a part-time blocking back for John Hale.
After all, Harden led the Buccaneers in tackles last season, and that was thought to be his main role. He's pacing the team in tackles again this year, but after Hale broke an ankle three weeks into the season, Harden become a hybrid star. He leads the offense in rushing and touchdowns.
"We knew Rance was pretty good on defense, but we didn't know what he could do on offense," Boyd coach Grant Reynolds said. "What we knew was that he played hard."
They hoped he could evolve from hard-nosed to hard charger.
"He'd played a little offense last year, a few times as a blocker," Reynolds aid. "Where is he better? Ooh, that's a good question. He was our leading tackler last year and now he's our leading rusher. Last year I would've said defense, but now that he's playing offense, I might say offense."
At this point in the season, Harden said offense is probably his favorite side.
"When John got hurt the coaches asked me to step up, and I didn't want to disappoint my teammates," he said. "I feel like I'm making such a difference that it's hard not to like offense. I have tried to keep the fullback mentality. Everyone knows fullbacks don't have too many moves, that it's run-straight-through-them. I like to keep it simple and run north and south."
While they'll never be a matched pair because at 6-foot and 190 pounds, Harden dwarfs quarterback Jim Cardwell, the two have given the Bucs the kind of one-two rushing punch -- in the neighborhood of 2,700 yards -- offensive coordinator Carter Cardwell sought with his 5-foot-8 son and the speedy Hale.
Harden, the bridge of his nose covered with a band-aid and a clear plastic strip of tape, is the picture of a prototypical fullback/linebacker. He has drawn favorable comparisons to Matt Henley, who played for the Bucs in the early part of this century and is still recalled as a gut-wrenching, game-changing linebacker and a vociferous, nasty silverback of a blocking fullback.
"He and Rance are a lot alike -- the way they block and run and play defense," Reynolds said.
"I think of Matt every day when I see Race at practice. He has a nose for the football. He's a great blocker," the coach added. "He gets downhill as fast as anybody I've seen. He never misses a day. He comes to work every day, and he works hard."
Contact Ward Gossett at email@example.com or 423-886-4765.