Northside’s running game off to a quick start

Published 1:44 pm Saturday, August 30, 2014

DAVID CUCCHIARA | DAILY NEWS HARD KNOCKS: Northside running back Rockne Butler has rushed for 211 years in two games this season.

HARD KNOCKS: Northside running back Rockne Butler has rushed for 211 years in two games this season.

PINETOWN — Having a variety of different looks logged into an offensive repertoire, specifically the running game, is a blueprint most high school teams try to adhere to.

For the smaller schools that lack a dynamic passing threat or size on the lines, shuffling the playbook and mixing it up is vital to being successful. And two weeks into the high school football season, it’s head coach Keith Boyd and the Northside Panthers exceeding expectations, utilizing their power running game to break through the oppositions’ front seven.

In two games, the Panthers have recorded 694 rushing yards and 94 points, all without completing a single pass.

It’s an offense that closely resembles Navy’s triple option. Passing is rare and the personnel undersized, but the Midshipmen are known to pull off an upset here and there, simply by confusing their opponents. In fact, against a pretty decent East Carolina football team in 2012, Navy rushed for 512 yards in a 41-point victory over the Pirates. Head coach Ruffin McNeill and his squad could not devise a way to stop Navy from finding its way into the end zone.

The playbooks aren’t exactly the same, but Northside’s personnel are certainly comparable to that of Navy’s. Heading into the season, Boyd considered this veteran group of seniors (with two transfers thrown in) to be the most athletic he’s ever coached — a confident assessment at first. However, he questioned whether or not that athleticism would translate to the field and, subsequently, to wins. He also admitted that his roster was also one of the smallest he’s ever coached.

So far, Northside’s power-I, double-wing offense has been operating extremely efficiently, en route to a 2-0 start in 2014.

The unquestioned X-factor in Boyd’s scheme has been senior running back Rockne Butler, who has already notched 211 yards and five touchdowns on the ground this season. Even against a North Duplin team that kept Southside scoreless for three quarters, Butler consistently found his way into the end zone.

“He gives us leadership and he’s a hard-nosed runner for us,” Boyd said. “We played a pretty physical football team in North Duplin and we were able to stick with our game plan. He gives us talent on both sides of the ball.”

Supplementing Butler in the system is Patrick Moore, who has rushed for 149 yards and two touchdowns, and Kermani Slade, a scrappy scatback and utility player. Sophomore James Barrow also gets his fair share of carries at fullback.

“In terms of motivation, I don’t have to do a whole lot. Winning is motivation enough,” Boyd said. “We have Southside next week and we need to go to their place. Being a cross-county rival, that should be motivation enough.”

Starting with the Seahawks on Friday, the Panthers have the opportunity to prove just how good they really are over the next few weeks. On Sept. 12, they play a rejuvenated South Creek team that finished 1-10 last year, but have won their first two games under first-year head coach Grantley Mizelle. Then, Northside heads to Class 2-A Edenton Holmes to take on the undefeated aces.