Rahway junior tailback Gabril Gross might be one of the shorter backs in the area, but just like the linemen to whom he’s yielding about a foot or more, he’s not going to let that stand in his way this season.
Gross showed why he earned a starting role this season, piling up 137 yards rushing and two touchdowns as Rahway rolled past Hillside, 39-6, Saturday.
“He’s so powerful and a weapon that teams are going to have to reckon with,” Rahway coach Gary Mobley said. “We tell our kids that if you can get the job done, you’ll get the job. His size wasn’t a deterrent for us (giving him the starting job) at all.”
Gross, a 5-foot-5 junior, showed plenty of patience, waiting behind his line for open seams that he used to slip his diminutive frame through. And the Indians coaching staff wasn’t reluctant to keep feeding him, giving him 17 carries, including several after he suffered some cramping late in the game.
“I just stay low. Everyone tells me that I’m too short,” Gross said. “All I do is work hard and keep my focus. That’s what my parents tell me to do. I use my height as motivation.”
All of Rahway’s offensive touchdowns came on the ground as Gross, Justin Becker (two TDs), and quarterback Jeffery Bost all scored for the Indians.
Rahway started the game by pounding the ball through the heart of the Hillside defense. Ten of the team’s 11 plays on the opening drive were running plays as Becker capped off the series with a 3-yard touchdown with 7:18 left in the first quarter.
The Indians were just as successful on the other side of the ball. Rahway’s front line and linebacking unit was suffocating against Hillside’s running game, limiting the Comets to just 13 yards on the ground on 21 attempts. Sophomore Tyler West and juniors Justin Hodges and Dante Raymond combined for multiple tackles for a loss from their linebacker positions, while linemen Austin Jackson and Sean Twerdak each had a sack for the Indians (1-0).
Hillside quarterback Joseph Stralie focused his throws toward lengthy receiver Tirrell Mixon without much success. The two only connected once and a Stralie toss toward Mixon that would have put Hillside on the scoreboard in the first half was intercepted by Indians cornerback Will Calloway at the Rahway 1 to thwart the opportunity and preserve a 19-0 Rahway lead.
“We have a defense that’s experienced,” Mobley said. “Along with a good rushing game and sound defense — that’s how we want to build our teams.”
Bost stayed composed in his starting debut for Rahway, finishing 5 of 12 for 130 yards and a rushing touchdown. He did show some growing pains with a pair of interceptions.
Bost did have one of the plays of the game midway through the second quarter. He made an apparent 5-yard loss into a 53-yard gain when he escaped several defenders scrambling in his backfield and found junior Thorne Roberts near midfield. Roberts raced 68 yards all the way to the Hillside 1 before an illegal block penalty put Rahway back at the 15. Just two plays later, Becker would post his second score, scampering in from 7-yards out for Rahway.