Small and fast, big and fast -- Parkway Central's run game has both
NOV 27, 2013 1:21p ET
On one play, a little running back will go zipping around the corner so quickly you'll think you're watching in fast-forward speed. But that's just Augie Brooks in motion. A 5-foot-7, 160-pound senior, Brooks has topped the 2,000-yard rushing mark this season and set the school record for touchdowns, with 38.
He's not just fast, either. "His vision and his ability to cut make him a very, very good running back," coach Mark Goldenberg said.
On the next play, you're likely to see something that really will make you want to rub your eyes. Pounding through the middle of the line will be a fullback so large you'll wonder how an offensive tackle got the football and how he's managing to drag half the defense with him. But there is nothing wrong with your vision.
Khalen Saunders really is approaching 300 pounds and he really does play in the backfield. He's not just big, either. "He is a special, special athlete," Goldenberg said. "Two hundred-and-91 pounds and he can do a backflip. He probably has the best hands on the team."
He has outrun his share of defenders, too, in which he takes a special delight. "Any big person can run someone over," Saunders said. "It's a rare sight to see one outrunning a smaller safety."
Saunders isn't the only behemoth that Parkway Central has given the ball to. Michael Slater, listed at 265, often lined up beside Saunders in a formation that made it appear the Colts were using two offensive lines. Slater, however, suffered a knee sprain early in last Friday's 42-21 semifinal victory over Webster Groves and is unlikely to play in the championship.
Even without Slater, Brooks and Saunders proved more than Webster Groves could handle. When the Statesmen tired of chasing Brooks, they were left to be pounded by Saunders. Brooks scored Central's first three touchdowns and Saunders scored the final three as they rushed for 310 yards, 193 by Brooks.
"With Augie and I, teams don't know if they are going to have to chase somebody down or prepare to take a hit," said Saunders. "It wears them down mentally as well as physically. They have to think, 'Which one is coming?'"
The Colts (13-1) will need their cruise-and-bruise attack to be in top form to have a chance to beat nationally ranked Lee's Summit West (12-1) Saturday evening. Kickoff is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. and the game, like the other five title games, will be televised on Fox Sports Midwest. (Click here for full telecast schedule.)
Central, which never has won a state championship in football, was the only St. Louis-area team to advance to the Edward Jones Dome this season. Three times the Colts have finished as runner-up, most recently when they lost to Lee's Summit West 35-0 in the 2007 state championship game.
Though Brooks and Saunders then were in only sixth grade, they already were talking about getting to the Dome. Along with a now senior core that includes Notre Dame-bound lineman Jonathan Bonner, quarterback Zack Lazenby, defensive back Johnny Naughton and lineman Brantley Lohkamp, the Colts have arrived after coming close last year, when they lost in the semifinals to eventual state champion Kirkwood.
While the 2007 Lee's Summit West team went undefeated and this year's team has a loss -- 42-35 to Blue Springs, the top-ranked team in Class 6 -- it still poses Central's biggest challenge. Lee's Summit West has outscored the opposition 577-77 behind an attack that averages 216 rushing yards and 196 passing yards.
"No disrespect to anyone we've played because we've played some very good teams, but this is the most complete football team I've seen this year," Goldenberg said. "They've got dangerous people all over the field and they're solid up front. They are a complete football team."
Goldenberg compares his 2013 team favorably to the '07 squad he also coached. One edge that goes to the 2013 squad is on defense, where the Colts' four-man front anchored a unit that shut out six opponents and gave up less than 7 points a game.
"They're tough to move," Goldenberg said. "They're sound, disciplined and rush the passer well. The fact you can get pressure with four guys and leave seven guys in coverage makes the defense really, really tough."
Bonner and junior Tommy Payne man the ends while junior Keith Bobo handles one of the inside spots. Saunders lines up at the other tackle, where he is even more effective than he is in the backfield. His value up front, in fact, is part of the reason Goldenberg put him in the backfield.
"It helps them be motivated for other parts of the game if they get to touch the ball," said Goldenberg, referring also to the injured Slater. "It was a little bit of a selfish move at first to get them motivated in other areas, but they seem to be pretty successful at it so we've given them more and more opportunities."
Wise decision. With size to complement their speed, the Colts have built an attack that has become a sight to behold.
You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at email@example.com.
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