Last year, Hough High running backs Jarrett Nagy and Rashad Williams each had 1,000-yard seasons – and were rarely on the field together.
But the duo was a big reason the Huskies finished 12-2 and went unbeaten in the MECKA 4A to capture the school’s first conference title.
So, with another league championship and a long run through the playoffs in mind, Hough coach Miles Aldridge has tweaked the Huskies’ playbook for 2016.
That means Nagy and Williams will appear in the backfield together more with quarterback Jackson Gibbs, beginning with Hough’s season opener against Harding on Aug. 19.
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“That’s what a smart coach would do,” Aldridge said, laughing. “I might as well get both of them in the game. They’re not doing me any good sitting on the bench.”
That’s fine with Nagy and Williams.
“I’m ready for some football,” said Williams, who is 5-foot-7 and 170 pounds.
Said Nagy, who is 5-10 and 190 pounds: “I just want to hit somebody.”
As sophomores in 2015, they had surprising seasons for the Huskies: Williams led the team in rushing with 1,030 yards, closely followed by Nagy with 1,019.
Nagy put points on the scoreboard for Hough with a team-leading 22 touchdowns, third-best among Mecklenburg County teams. Williams scored eight touchdowns.
“I never really saw (Williams) as a competitor,” said Nagy, whose family moved to Cornelius from Ohio before his freshman year. “I always saw him as a friend, somebody I can be with.”
Said Williams: “I helped him out (as a freshman), learning the signals and things like that. But he caught on, and started doing what he’s doing.”
The duo’s rushing styles are also different – and complimentary.
Williams is the Huskies’ speed guy who can get around the ends, and with the moves to make tacklers miss, turning a 5-yard gain into 20 yards or more.
Nagy is Hough’s between-the-tackles runner, with the size and muscle to break through a hole, and enough speed to turn a short gain into a long one.
Together, they form a 1-2 backfield punch that compliments (and takes pressure off) Gibbs, who threw for 1,748 yards and 13 touchdowns as a junior.
“Last year, we ran a one-back system, and they were switching out a lot,” said Gibbs, who has received a scholarship offer from Big Ten power Michigan. “But having a two-back system is going to be great. … It’s going to create a lot of new opportunities.
“It’s going to be the same Jarrett and Rashad, but even better this year.”
That’s something Aldridge is counting on.
“If you’re one-dimensional, you better be really good,” Aldridge said. “But I don’t want to be one-dimensional, and they give me that option to have another dimension. They also make each other better – the better we throw, the better we can run. The better we run, the better we can throw.
“These two have talent – good talent – toughness, desire, commitment, a lot of things that make them good football players. They’re making a believer out of me.”
Sweet 16: Hough Huskies
The Observer continues with previews of teams in its annual preseason Sweet 16 high school football preseason poll. The teams will be revealed in alphabetical order. The poll, with numerical order, will be released following the previews.
Head coach: Miles Aldridge (Third season at Hough)
2015 record: 12-2 (6-0, MECKA 4A conference champion)
Key returning starters: Andrew Dziuk, Sr., MLB (6-0, 210); Jackson Gibbs, Sr., QB (6-0, 190); Rashad Williams, Jr., RB (5-7, 170); Jarrett Nagy, Jr., RB/LB (5-10, 190); Zack Stearns, Sr., K/P (6-2, 170); Tyus Fields, So., DB/RB (5-10, 175).
Returning starters: 5
Returning lettermen: 10
Outlook: Hough proved it could play with anyone last season, beating 4A power Mallard Creek in the regular season. But the Huskies’ 44-0 playoff loss to those same Mavericks probably provides some motivation as senior quarterback Jackson Gibbs and teammates look to defend their conference title and make a deep run into the postseason.