The ball is snapped and Aquinas running back Brendan Douglas searches for the hole, ready to beat anyone in his way.
But this time, the ball isn’t in his hands – rare as that might seem.
Instead of looking for rushing yards to add to his total, the junior is searching for a player to block. Well, not just block – to knock down.
As the Fighting Irish have posted a 8-3 record and earned the first state playoff triumph in team history, Douglas has often been the primary weapon, rushing for more than 1,500 yards and leading the team with more than 115 tackles. He’ll need to be at his best tonight when the Irish visit unbeaten Wilcox County in the second round of the Class A playoffs.
Aquinas coach Matt LeZotte estimates Douglas is on the field for about 140 plays every game, meaning Douglas probably sits out less than 10 plays.
In last week’s 38-13 win against Athens Academy in the first round of the playoffs, Douglas rushed for 166 yards on 26 carries, but he and the offensive line also helped backfield mates Ruben Garnett and Daniel Lindsey find running room.
With Douglas again showing he can be just as menacing when he blocks, the freshmen, using their smaller size and impressive speed, combined for 145 yards on only 18 carries.
“He surpasses whatever the standard would be,” LeZotte said about Douglas, adding reaching the minimum expectation isn’t enough for Douglas.
At 5-foot-10 and 210 pounds, Douglas said he can bench 370 pounds. With Douglas’ strength, determination and work, LeZotte said the junior is the team’s best blocker and especially dangerous if he leads the way on the outside. He’s the type of player LeZotte would like to clone.
“We tell Brendan we don’t have Brendan blocking for you,” LeZotte said.
On the rare occasion Douglas does make a mistake, it doesn’t take long for him to atone.
Against Athens Academy, after one such mistake, LeZotte was ribbing Douglas, even in the huddle. He knew it would fire up Douglas.
The coach noticed Douglas’ eyes changed.
“Oh, yes,” LeZotte remembers saying when he saw the eyes.
Not much later, Douglas pancaked an opponent, knocking him back “about 8 yards,” LeZotte said.
“It was like that the rest of the game,” the coach said.
With Garnett’s and Lindsey’s speed working with the blocking, Garnett said all it takes is a couple blocks from another player and a missed tackle to go the distance.
“Sometimes it’s just as good as scoring a touchdown,” Douglas said about a pancake block.