By BILL KOLB | Contributor
What Warren Miles Long can do with the football in his hands has never been in question.
It’s more a question of how many times it will get there.
Long, a bruising tailback who already has committed to play football at Northwestern University after his senior year at James Logan High, enters this season having already amassed a whopping 2,859 rushing yards. He saw his impressive 1,545-yard sophomore season production drop some last year. He finished 2011 with 1,345 yards and 19 touchdowns.
The reason for the decline? Of all things, Long was hampered by his own success.
“(He) could have had 2,500 yards last year,” Colts coach George Zuber said. “But we didn’t want to run up the score and chase stats. He’s been a team player. We would never sacrifice sportsmanship for stats.”
Long knows how the math works. If the Colts are in competitive games “” as opposed to some of the blowouts they put on teams during last year’s 10-0 regular season romp “” he’s going to get a lot of touches.
“I figure I’m always going to get 1,000 yards,” he said. “I might get 1,500. I just depends on how many times I get the ball.”
In the interest of staying sharp for the playoffs, James Logan has taken significant steps toward ensuring it will be playing more high-quality opponents throughout the season. The Colts enter the 2012 season as an independent football team, unfettered by the constraints of a Mission Valley Athletic League schedule that has traditionally offered paltry challenge. James Logan has lost a grand total of ONE MVAL game since Zuber took the reins in 2006, a 34-1 league mark.
As a result, Long has frequently found himself focusing solely on the defensive side of the ball after the first half, sometimes the first quarter.
“Beating up on the same people year after year gets boring,” Long said. “It doesn’t make you better. We weren’t battle tested.”
That lack of sharpness has resulted in early playoff exits the past two seasons. James Logan lost its playoff opener to San Ramon Valley-Danville after going unbeaten in the regular season last year. The previous season, Berkeley promptly bounced the Colts.
“This group of guys deserves to be tested,” Zuber said. “It will be good for us to play a tough team in Week 10. “¦ To be able to play four quarters of football and get (Long) in a groove, maybe get him 12, 13 carries a game. I’m looking forward to seeing what he can put up in four quarters a game.”
The biggest question mark for the Colts entering the season is the offensive line, where they have no returning starters. But the Ryan Bua-led defense is stout, and the skill positions, with quarterback Jeffrey Prothro, wideout Amalani Fukofuka and change-of-pace running back Damond Beasley, are loaded.
“There’s a lot of excitement and buzz for our potential,” Zuber said. “We’ve just got to put it all together.”
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