With Lucas, Leonard the Pride running game is in good hands - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Sports

With Lucas, Leonard the Pride running game is in good hands

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Posted: Friday, September 13, 2013 9:45 am | Updated: 3:53 pm, Tue Sep 24, 2013.

One only played in a handful of games on the junior varsity level last year and the other was more known for what he does after the starting gun goes off than what he does after breaking the huddle.

Brandyn Leonard and Paul Lucas might have been unknown variables to start the year, but the Mountain Pointe juniors have asserted themselves into the Pride’s running back rotation through three games as they prepare to play Maryvale (0-2) on Thursday.

“He really is electric,” Vaughan said. “Leonard showed up (against Chavez). They are both good, young backs. They are going to be outstanding.”

While the Mountain Pointe running game will be spearheaded by Wesley Payne, he won’t be getting as many touches as Garette Craig did last season and Dillan Johnson did the year before.

Payne is a load to bring down as Bishop Gorman found out, but with the depth the Pride has at tailback and the lack of it at linebacker, where he is considered one of the best in the state, there will be times when he will get a breather on the offensive side of the ball.

It means Leonard and Lucas, along with Deontay Townsend and Kawaun Ellis, will get more opportunities and thus far they’ve taken advantage of it.

Lucas, a track star, has been explosive.

He has averaged 17.8 yards per touch this far — 13 for 232 yards with four touchdowns — including a score on his first carry of the year against Gorman and a 45-yard punt return against Chavez last week.

“People know me for track because I had a breakout year, but I’ve always played football,” said Lucas, who won the 100-meter dash and 400 at the state meet and finished second in the 200. “I want to do both for as long as I can.”

His performance against Gorman — 7 carries for 144 yards, two touchdowns — earned him a scholarship offer from Oregon State.

There have been plenty of star track athletes who have given football a shot, but the contact isn’t always welcomed. The speed is what everyone was in awe of with 5-foot-11, 175-pound Lucas, but he has consistently bounced out of tackles to show how strong he is as well.

“He’s not just fast,” Leonard said. “He makes moves and breaks tackles. I’ve seen him do it all the time.”

Leonard had a good view of it last year from the bench as he missed a chunk of the JV season because of a concussion. He played in the first two games, but after a big hit in the second one he was out until the final two games of the year.

“I was kind of losing my interest,” he said. “Just going to practice and not playing was hard. I didn’t like it.”

A good performance in the spring rejuvenated his love for the game and the 6-foot, 176-pounder has made the most of his opportunities this season,

Leonard has 13 carries for 95 yards (7.3 yards per attempt) and added a 70-yard touchdown catch on a quick pattern to start the second half against Chavez.

“That was my first one (on the varsity level),” he said. “I was running full speed and I was pretty excited.”

How the carries are divvied up once the schedule gets tougher, starting next week at Chandler, will be an interesting development, but thus far there hasn’t been much of a drop off.

“I feel like we have a bunch of guys we can switch in and out,” Leonard said. “Wesley and Deontay are the power backs, Paul is the speed and Kawaun and me can run inside and outside.

“We all can get things done in our own way.”

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or jskoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

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Jason P. Skoda
  • Jason P. Skoda
  • Sports writer
  • Resident sports writer at the Ahwatukee Foothills News

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