HS football position by position breakdown: Scouting the running backs

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Tuesday, August 14, 2018 | 8:36 PM


Yough’s Dustin Shoaf rushed for 428 yards on 43 carries and five touchdowns in Week 8 last year, a season’s worth of yards for some high school rushers all on one night.

Incredibly, that wasn’t the year’s best performance.

Not after the appropriately named Dylan Rush of Mapletown rushed 39 times for 524 yards, a WPIAL single-game record. Rush bettered the 492 yards of former Armstrong star Zane Dudek in 2016.

Yes, WPIAL quarterbacks are rewriting passing records each season. But not everybody has abandoned the ground game.

The WPIAL had around 50 rushers reach 1,000 yards last season. Two reached 2,000, Washington’s Nick Welsh and Lionel Deanes, who both since graduated. Rush also has graduated, but Shoaf returns with a chance to defend his regular-season rushing title.

Among returning rushers, Shoaf, Aliquippa’s Avante McKenzie and California’s Jelani Stafford each accumulated more than 1,600 yards last season.

1. Dustin Shoaf

Yough, senior, 6-2, 180

Shoaf was a workhorse last year, carrying 280 times in 10 games. He finished with 1,808 yards (6.5 ypc) and 16 TDs on a team that went 2-8. He topped 100 yards nine times and averaged 180 yards per game. He lists an offer from Cal (Pa.).

2. Avante McKenzie

Aliquippa, senior, 5-8, 185

McKenzie averaged 8.5 yards on his 192 carries last season and scored 18 times. He followed up his 1,200-yard sophomore campaign with 1,641 rushing yards as a junior, carrying Aliquippa to the WPIAL Class 3A finals. He lists an offer from Notre Dame College.

3. Terry ‘Tank” Smith

Penn Hills, senior, 5-8, 205

Smith committed to Howard earlier this month. He rushed for 678 yards on 126 carries a year ago, earning all-conference honors in Class 6A’s brutal Northern Seven. He scored eight times, including a 67-yarder in the playoffs against Bethel Park.

4. Jelani Stafford

California, senior, 6-2, 260

Stafford is built like a defensive lineman, a position he could play in college. But on offense, the bruising runner churned out 1,608 yards and 28 TDs for the WPIAL Class A playoff team. He averaged 10.3 yards per carry, earning him plenty of Jerome Bettis references.

5. Deonte Ross

Valley, senior, 6-1, 220

Ross will shift between tailback and fullback. Combined, he rushed for more than 1,900 yards over the past two seasons, including 986 last year. He had four 100-yard games as a junior and scored six TDs in eight games.

One to watch

Adrian Williams

Peters Township, junior, 5-9, 160

Williams earned first-team all-conference honors in the Class 6A Southeastern as a sophomore. He showed his speed on a 95-yard kickoff return against Mt. Lebanon.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.

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