INDIAN TRAIL – Metrolina Christian was facing a turning point in its season as coach Thomas Langley boarded his team on a bus to Asheville on Oct. 5
On the two-and-a half-hour ride up the mountain Langley, who has been on the sideline since the program’s inception, had to consider the odds.
His Warriors were readying to play Asheville School, a team that was not only 5-1, but coming off two wins in which they overwhelmed their opponents with 54-0 and 55-0 shutouts. They had beaten a slew of opponents, including defending NCISAA 1A champ SouthLake Christian, and they wanted revenge after Metrolina Christian star Ishod Finger had run for 245 yards and five touchdowns in a 61-10 win between the teams last year.
But Finger was gone now, playing for the Charlotte 49ers. And the Warriors were just starting to get into their rhythm at running back after Jack Crump missed two games after dislocating his hip just a week before the first game, and played sparingly in the third game, a blowout loss to Trinity Christian that had Metrolina sitting with a record of 1-2 and reeling.
Crump had since returned and paired with jack-of-all-trades Jadus Davis to form a lethal 1-2 punch in the backfield.
But here Langley was, taking his team on one of its furthest road trips of the season. If they lose, the Warriors had reigning NCISAA 3A champ Charlotte Christian, an immovable force who will very likely not be beaten this season, on the schedule with the chance of a 4-4 Metrolina record.
So how would Langley play it?
Like he always wanted to.
“This season started kind of weird because Jack wasn’t healthy,” Langley said. “He missed two games, but he really didn’t play a lot in the third either, so Jadus had to carry the load. He wasn’t opposed to that, but it was weird for us because we were going to use him as a slot receiver and use him in a lot of different ways. Now that Jack has been back, we’re getting accustomed to how we wanted to be all year.
“We’ve been much more efficient, our quarterbacks have been better and it’s kind of like everybody is in a better flow than we were those first two or three games now that we have Jack back. Our offense is running like we wanted it.”
Against Asheville, Langley called 39 plays, 25 of which were runs.
Crump led the balanced offense with 15 carries, 130 yards and four touchdowns. Davis did his part, too, running four times for 110 yards and two scores and hauling in four catches for 53 yards.
Quarterbacks Myles Saxton (8-10, 126 yards and a touchdown, four carries for 32 yards) and Angel Gonzalez (3-4, 26 yards) played efficiently. The defense, led by Cam Robinson’s eight tackles and Colby Girard’s two interceptions, held Asheville to 226 yards of total offense and the Warriors prevailed, 55-14.
That’s how it’s been going for the Warriors, who have now blown out each of their past four opponents, since Crump has returned from injury.
Since the 1-2 start, Crump has come into his own. In the four ensuing games the 5-10, 185-pound sophomore has carried the ball 55 times for 447 yards (8.12 yards per carry) and seven touchdowns.
Davis, a 5-10, 165-pound junior, has rushed 22 times for 327 (14.8 YPC) with six touchdowns. Davis has also caught 14 passes for 231 yards (16.5 YPC) and two scores.
Davis, who transferred in from Forest Hills, said he and Sun Valley transfer Crump first started to get to really know each other as school classes began.
But Langley said he’s never heard the two say anything negative about sharing touches.
“It’s been good for both of us,” Crump said. “I’m not used to (being the main ball carrier) because this is my first year really even playing on varsity. But I’m just trying to get better every week and get more acclimated to it.”
Langley thinks the partnership is perfect. Although Crump has more than doubled Davis’ carries since he’s returned full strength, the thunder-and-lightning pairing is a great fit for both.
“I’ve never heard them once say anything about carries or splitting time,” Langley said. “Jadus doesn’t get as many quote-unquote carries as Jack does, but he gets the ball just as much if not more than Jack.
“As good as an athlete as Jadus is, and as fast as he is, I felt like if we always played him in the backfield, teams could surround us in the box. But if we had another good back like Jack we could put Jadus out in space more and defenses couldn’t hone in on stopping our run game with just Jadus back there. Now they have to account for Jack and even Myles, who is a decent runner by himself.”
It’s a system that’s worked well for everyone.
“This has been a really good experience and I get to finally feel what it feels like to win,” Davis said. “I don’t mind sharing carries with Jack at all. When we get going, we all get going. For me, colleges can look at me at any position, so that really helps. I don’t get stuck in one group, and they can chart me as an athlete with all of the things I can do.
“But we’ve got this going now and we’re going to keep it up.”
The Warriors will more than likely lose to Charlotte Christian, but they can rebound with Rabun Gap (3-4) and Hickory Grove (1-5) before entering the playoffs.
At 7-3, which is the Warriors likely end-of-season record, Metrolina should get a top four seed in the Division II playoffs.
With their run game sparkling, a defense that’s given up 28 total points during the four-game win streak and a couple of capable quarterbacks, this team has a real shot at winning a playoff game and maybe more.
“We’re a pretty talented group, but after that starting level the experience really drops off so we have to stay healthy,” Langley said. “But I think we need to stay focused on what we’re trying to do. I tell the guys to focus on us what we can change and not worry about what we can’t. If we do what we’re supposed to do, and do it with as much effort as we can, everything will work out for us in our favor.”