ST. JOHNS – Like many of his teammates on offense, St. Johns senior tailback Kade Heibeck was new to a starting role coming into the 2016 season.
The inexperience and lack of chemistry showed early for the Redwings, who dropped their first three contests of the year, failing to score more than 20 points in a game during that stretch. Heibeck said he was confident that everything would turnaround and St. Johns would eventually get back to its ground-and-pound ways.
The senior has been a catalyst in the revival.
After garnering just 137 total rushing yards during his team’s 0-3 start, Heibeck has since rushed for 437 yards and eight touchdowns for the Redwings (3-3, 3-1), who are now in the midst of a three-game winning streak.
“We expected to run the ball well (coming in),” said Heibeck, who is one of six new starters on offense. “We definitely have a lot of players that can run.
“We were a young team, and we’re just finally getting developed.”
Heibeck had his breakout game two weeks ago when he rushed for 208 yards and three touchdowns in a 54-21 victory over Waverly. The tailback followed that outing with 177 yards and three touchdowns in Friday’s 42-7 win over Owosso.
St. Johns first-year starting quarterback Ross Feldpausch said Heibeck’s emergence has not only helped with his development, but it’s given the offense the ability to shake things up. The Redwings are averaging 41 points per game during the streak.
“When you get a running game that’s really that dangerous, it helps with the passing game, play-action becomes a lot easier,” Feldpausch said. “It makes the game flow, and everyone’s confidence really grows.
“The first few weeks were rough, but we played some tough competition. I really think our o-line has been playing spectacular the past few games. We really owe the credit to those guys up front, because without them we wouldn’t be able to do anything.”
Heibeck will look to continue his hot streak next week against CAAC Red foe and Division 3 No. 9-ranked DeWitt. The Panthers (5-1, 4-0) are the lone unbeaten team in the conference, and with a win, St. Johns would earn a share of the league title.
Heibeck said his team’s spirits were down after the slow start, but the Redwings never counted out the possibility of salvaging the season.
“We knew we were a good team and could come back,” he said. “We just needed to work harder in practice and really dial in on what we needed to do. I think we started to do that, and we can keep doing that throughout the rest of our season.”
Contact James L. Edwards III at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JLEdwardsIII.