When he took over the reins as Eastern View’s head football coach in June, Brian Lowery knew he’d be working with a relatively young nucleus of players.
What Lowery didn’t expect was to be leaning on a group of running backs that’s largely inexperienced at the varsity level. But that’s the case as the Cyclones (4-1 overall, 2-1 district) prepare to play host to James Monroe (1-4, 0-2) in a Battlefield District contest Friday night at Cyclone Stadium.
EVHS entered the season with senior Raq Lawson entrenched atop the depth chart for the third consecutive campaign. He led the team in rushing in each of the past two seasons, tallying 942 yards in 2019 and 684 last spring. However, Lawson is no longer with the team, leaving sophomore Jayden Williams and juniors Deuce Washington and Jasian Spencer to pick up the slack.
“I’ve got the utmost confidence in those guys, regardless of whether or not they are rookies in terms of their various experience levels,” Lowery said. “They’re a versatile group that has played well for us so far.”
Of the three, Williams is the only one with experience in the backfield at the varsity level. He was a backup to Lawson and Chaz Keen a season ago, playing sparingly. Spencer was primarily a defensive back last season, while Washington saw most of his action on the Cyclones’ junior varsity squad.
Williams has seen the bulk of the action among the trio, and he turned in career highs in carries (20), yards (142) and touchdowns (2) in last week’s 35-0 victory at Caroline.
“Jayden has done a great job taking over the position and being a leader for the other guys,” Lowery said. “I can’t say enough how proud of him I am for stepping up.”
Washington has found the end zone once in each of EVHS’ last two contests, while Spencer has shown flashes of his explosiveness with 27- and 29-yard outbursts against Stafford and Caroline, respectively.
“Each one of them brings something a little bit different to the table,” Lowery pointed out. “There’s at least some change of pace whenever we shift from one to the other.”
Shifting gears in the running game will likely be a staple of Lowery’s offense. The 30-year-old first-time head coach said the days of the bell cow RB are mostly over.
“I don’t believe in running a guy 25 or 30 times a game unless he’s just an absolute stud,” he remarked. “With advanced statistics and what we now know about player safety, you just don’t see it happening very often at any level of football nowadays. So in most cases, I absolutely believe sharing the load is the right approach for both the team and the players.”
In addition to Williams, Washington and Spencer, the Cyclones also have quarterback Caden Huseby’s running ability to bolster their ground attack. The senior has tallied 263 yards and two scores, trailing only Williams for the team lead in both categories.
James Monroe enters Friday’s matchup having dropped four in a row since a 20-14 season-opening win over Stafford. The Yellow Jackets got 198 yards and two TDs passing from QB Bryce Caldwell in last Friday’s 21-14 loss at Courtland, but have consistently struggled to establish a running game.
“Regardless of their record, we have a healthy respect for James Monroe,” Lowery said. “The kids know they will be tough and athletic, and this will not be a walk in the park.”
JAMES MONROE (1-4 OVERALL, 0-2 BATTLEFIELD DISTRICT) at EASTERN VIEW (4-1, 2-1)
Game time: Friday, 7 p.m.
Last meeting: Eastern View won 14-13 on Feb. 27, 2021. The Cyclones lead the all-time series 5-3.
Last week: James Monroe lost to Courtland 21-14; Eastern View defeated Caroline 35-0.
Rushing leaders: James Monroe—Jasiah Smith 54-220. Eastern View—Jayden Williams 58-276, 5 TDs; Caden Huseby 34-263, 2 TDs.
Passing leaders: James Monroe—Bryce Caldwell 26-56-4, 339 yards, 3 TDs; Tyson Taylor 28-66-5, 302 yards, TD. Eastern View—Huseby 37-69-4, 516 yards, 5 TDs.
Receiving leaders: James Monroe—Christian Hamm 17-227, 3 TDs. Eastern View—Adarian Cook 9-159, TD; Brett Clatterbaugh 7-132, 3 TDs; Jordan Colbert 13-151; Connor Weeks 6-48, TD.