One of the first things you notice when watching City High senior Xavier Washpun carry the football are the tough yards he gains after contact.
It happens over and over, one violent run after another.
Nobody keeps official count of yards after contact, although it’s probably safe to say that the 5-foot-10, 200-pound Washpun would rank near the top in Class 4A.
Rarely is he brought down by one defender. And many times it takes a group effort to finally stop Washpun, the latest example being Friday when he shredded Cedar Rapids Jefferson for 221 rushing yards during a 35-10 victory at Bates Field.
The game already had historical significance with it being City’s 1,000th played at the varsity level.
City coach Dan Sabers then added to it when he paid Washpun a heavyweight compliment afterward.
“He’s doing a hell of a job for us,” Sabers said. “He’s going to rank up there with the others before it’s all said and done.”
To rank near the top of anything football-related for City is a worthy accomplishment, but especially at running back.
Tim Dwight, obviously, would top any list of Little Hawk running backs dating back to when the school played its first varsity season in 1907. He set a school record as a senior in 1993 with 2,113 rushing yards despite barely playing beyond halftime in most of the games for the undefeated state champions.
Rob Thein then broke Dwight’s record the next season by rushing for 2,243 yards while leading City to a second consecutive state title in 1994. He and Dwight were teammates for three seasons at Iowa, where Dwight became a standout receiver and all-America return specialist, and where Thein became a starting fullback.
The list also would include Jess Holland, who rushed for 2,043 yards as a senior in 1996 while leading City to another undefeated state championship season, and more recently, Ronald Thompson, who combined to rush for more than 3,000 yards in 2010 and 2011.
Washpun currently ranks second in Class 4A in rushing with 679 yards. He also scored eight touchdowns and is averaging 8.6 yards per carry.
“It’s all just instincts,” Washpun said after Friday’s victory, which was City’s third in a row.
Washpun brings more than just instincts to the table. The way in which he explodes through a hole can’t be taught, nor can the way in which he makes defenders miss in the open field with a nifty spin move.
The Oct. 11 showdown between City and second-ranked West High (4-0) could provide a huge rush, not just in terms of emotion, but also with how the game will be played.
West is currently ranked second in Class 4A with 1,178 rushing yards, while City is ranked sixth with 1,019 yards rushing.
And while Washpun has accounted for more than half of City’s rushing yards in four games this season, West has relied more on a group effort.
Senior halfback Devin Raffensperger and senior quarterback Nate Boland lead the team with 372 and 340 rushing yards, respectively. Boland has gained most of his rushing yards on plays in which he rolls to his left or right with an option to either run or throw.
* THAT’S MORE LIKE IT: Solon coach Kevin Miller had plenty to be concerned about after watching his team lose to Regina 38-0 in the second game of the season.
Ball security might have been at the top of his list, considering how much the Spartans put it on the turf against Regina, especially when trying to execute the center-quarterback exchange.
Solon (3-1) has won two games in a row since then, including a 42-7 homecoming victory over Clear Creek Amana on Friday.
“It’s gotten a lot better,” Miller said Monday afternoon. “That was certainly one of the issues against Regina. We’ve only had one bad snap since then. So that’s something we had to shore up, and I feel a lot better about that.”
Miller also feels better about his team’s rushing attack, which produced 244 yards against CCA. Junior Brandon Kramer led the way with 109 rushing yards on just five carries. He scored the game’s first touchdown on a 76-yard scamper. Senior Jordan Wymer also rushed for 76 yards on nine carries, and senior quarterback Jacob Black had 55 rushing yards on five carries.
Wymer had been slowed by an injury earlier in the season.
“We’ve got athletes who can make plays,” Miller said. “Brandon Kramer, and now we’ve got Jordan Wymer back. Those two in the backfield are a pretty good duo. And with Jacob at quarterback, you’ve got a three-headed monster back there. So we’re trying to utilize their talents as much as we possibly can.”
* NO DIXON, NO PROBLEM: It apparently will take more than being without its star running back to slow down Regina.
The Class 1A top-ranked Regals pounded previously undefeated Eddyville-Blakesburg 42-12 on Friday despite playing without leading rusher Riley Dixon, who was out with an ankle injury.
Junior Jake Brinkman needed just eight carries to gain 100 rushing yards. Three of his carries resulted in touchdowns runs of 5, 42 and 1 yard. He also returned a kick 98 yards for a touchdown to help Regina win its 46th game in a row dating back to the start of the 2010 season.
“One thing you can always tell if a team is good is by the depth they have at running back because that’s probably the most athletic position you have, either there or linebacker,” Regina coach Marv Cook said. “And our guys definitely fit that kind of mold.”
Junior quarterback Drew Cook, who is Marv’s son, also complemented the running game by completing 12-of-14 passes for 164 yards and one touchdown, a 21-yard scoring strike to Bryan Amelon.
As for Dixon’s status, Cook said he’s making progress, but it still questionable for Friday’s home game against Cardinal of Eldon.
* LONE STAR: Jared Hudson had a performance Friday for Lone Tree that was similar to what Brinkman did for Regina. Hudson rushed for 125 yards and scored five touchdowns on just 11 carries to lead the Lions to a 57-18 victory over New London. Hudson scored on runs of 46, 21, 1 and 10 yards. He also returned a kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown.
* OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Plenty of candidates from which to choose, but Washpun’s performance was simply too much to overcome.
* DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Regina senior linebacker Casey Beaver finished with 10 tackles, including a quarterback sack in Friday’s 30-point victory.