On Monday afternoon, the Mountain Pointe football team was in the weight room.

The scene was pretty much what one would expect as the big guys were lifting a lot of weight.

The thing that catches the eye, though, is the mighty mite near the squat rack.

His thin, small frame belies the strength within.

“I’ve always been good at squatting,” the Pride’s prize possession Garette Craig said. “It may not look like it but I can squat more than 400 pounds.”

One might look at the 5-foot-11, 154-pounder and wonder if this is a case of a big fish story. You know, your buddy who loves to tell the story about the one that got away and each time he tells it, his hands get farther and farther apart.

Craig wouldn’t be the first person to fudge how much weight he lifted, but if you caught his act last Friday against Hamilton then the questioning ends there.

“He is a good practice player, but when it is game time, he plays like he is a 190-pound kid,” Mountain Pointe athletic offensive coordinator Eric Lauer said. “You could see he had a gear that no one else had.”

It wasn’t just the speed or the 164 all-purpose yards that impressed, it was the way Craig almost always broke the first tackle or at least moved the piled forward.

“I mainly like to juke, but the power is there too if I need it,” he said. “I can go around someone but if I have to I will go through a guy’s chest.”

Don’t get the wrong idea.

Craig, a senior, isn’t going to be running defensive linemen over regularly but if a play calls for it, the guys who have an extra 100 pounds on him might be in for a surprise.

Ideally, Craig will get most of his touches in space where he can apply those jitterbug moves that can leave a flatfooted defender empty handed.

He showed his all-around game in the dramatic 17-14 win over Hamilton to open the season.

Craig finished with 16 carries for 101 yards and a score, and grabbed seven passes for 63 yards.

“He had a great game,” Pride coach Norris Vaughan said. “He is our tailback and I told (reporters) he was going to be our breakout player. It was just one game, but we think he is going to have a big year.”

Craig did well in the few offensive chances he had last year (25 carries for 218 yards, two touchdowns) as he concentrated on starting at cornerback.

With 1,200-yard rusher Dillan Johnson in college, Craig, who averaged 32 yards a kickoff return last year, stepped back into the lead role while leaving his defensive duties behind.

“Some players who sub in and out feel like they can’t get in rhythm running the ball,” Lauer said. “If he played defense, we’d have to rest him more. This way he can get a feel for the game, the physicalness around him, and stay fresh.”

Vaughan said Craig, who hasn’t heard much on the recruiting trail yet, is probably one of the team’s best tacklers but the depth in the defensive backfield allows them to have Craig concentrate on offense.

“We are in a position where we have guys who play both ways, but we feel good enough about our depth at DB that we’d move him to offense,” Vaughan said. “He might get in there on defense, but we want to keep him healthy and he’s not real big.”

Maybe not, but you’d never know it with his style of play.

“Some guys clock well (in the 40-yard dash), but when you are about it on the field you just don’t see it,” Lauer said. “He is one of our lighter backs but he plays bigger than that. He gets hit and still spins out of it.”

Craig, who complimented his linemen like all smart running backs do, is excited about what the season can bring.

“We came back against Hamilton and showed what kind of team we can be,” he said. “I’ll do my part. I don’t care if it is in the backfield or in the flat. Once I see the hole I look to see where the safeties are because I don’t care about the linebackers. I want to break it every time.”

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

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