A Braden River junior running back excels going downhill.
After Braden River High junior running back Lavontae Youmans' second touchdown run, the Booker High defense looked gassed.
It's difficult to blame them.
While many talented running backs have played at Braden River in recent years — Raymond Thomas, Deshaun Fenwick and Knowledge McDaniel, to name a few — none have looked quite like Youmans. At just 5-foot-8 and 195 pounds, Youmans is not builr like a prototypical back.
"We have had diverse backfields in the past," Pirates Coach Curt Bradley said. "But he (Youmans) is the most physical downhill runner we have had. He might have the best vision of any back we have had."
Bradley said Youmans has the ability to locate minute holes in a defensive front and, while not a speed back, has enough burst to get through them. Do that enough times in a game and a defense is bound to get tired. It's why Youmans sometimes gets more effective the more carries he gets.
In the team's 34-20 win against 2019 Final Four participant Palmetto on Oct. 2, Youmans carried the ball 32 times for 210 yards (6.6 yards per carry) and four touchdowns.
In the team's Oct. 9 game, a 42-0 win against Booker, the Pirates opted to split carries more evenly, but Youmans still finished with two touchdowns. They both came in Youmans' signature style: through the teeth of the defense, bowling over a defender or two on the way to the end zone and falling forward for six.
"You fall forward, that's always two or three more yards," Youmans said. "That's something that has been natural for me."
Youmans said the biggest difference this season has been sheer effort. He has been giving 100% in practices and taking in everything his coaches tell him. He also does not try to do too much on a given play. He takes what he can get, but he takes all of it.
Both Youmans and Bradley gave credit to the Pirates' offensive line for the push they have been able to generate off the line of scrimmage. The Pirates have had some injuries along the line, but against Booker, it was junior Josh Keane, junior Alex Colas, senior Will Ferguson, senior Marcus Gonzales and sophomore Max Miranda who got the start — and dominated.
Having a capable running back complements the Pirates' strong passing game, led by senior quarterback and Rice commit Shawqi Itraish. Against Palmetto, Itriash was battling a leg injury and was limited in his movement, one reason for the emphasis on the running game. Going forward, Bradley said, the knowledge that either facet of the offense can capably take a lead role is important. And when Youmans needs a breather, the team feels comfortable giving the ball to senior running back Jaheim Hodo, who similarly is unafraid of running through someone.
After early-season struggles, Braden River appears to be back to its old self, but tough tests still await, including a home game with Manatee (3-0) on Oct. 23.