Kris Turner-Jackson's goal is simple: He wants defenders to fear tackling him.
The Merced High running back accomplishes that by running hard and punishing those that get in his way. If he gets to lower a shoulder and run straight at a defender ... all the better.
"One of the things I like to do is run over people," Turner-Jackson said. "It's good to let the defense know that you're going to run hard. I don't like to let one person tackle me."
After sputtering early on this season, Turner-Jackson and teammate Jabar Byrd have the Bears ground attack running smoothly in their two Central California Conference wins over Turlock and Buhach Colony.
Merced (5-2, 2-0) will try to improve to 3-0 in conference when it hosts Pitman (5-2, 1-1) tonight at Veterans Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
"When we run the ball well, we put our team in great position," Turner-Jackson said. "It seems like every game we run the ball well, we win."
The statistics back him up.
In Merced's two losses to Edison of Fresno and Clovis North, Merced averaged just 58.5 yards on the ground. In the five wins, the Bears have racked up more than 193 yards rushing per game.
The Bears have run wild the last two weeks, rushing for 267 yards against Turlock and 236 yards last week against Buhach Colony. Merced is averaging 8.1 yards per carry in CCC play.
"It's been a combination of a couple things," Bears head coach Rob Scheidt said. "We've been able to run the ball well, we've been balanced between run and pass, and we've been able to possess the football.
"When you're able to do those three things, not just us, but any team, you're going to have success."
The improved running game has made things easier on Bears quarterback Tyrone Williams, who has completed 24 of 35 passes for 436 the past two weeks, including five touchdowns and one interception.
At 5-foot-11 and 178 pounds, Turner-Jackson has set the tone early in games.
The Merced senior leads the team with 619 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 113 carries. He ran for a season-high 141 yards against the Thunder.
Turner-Jackson can break off the big play, too, as he showed with a 92-yard touchdown run against Enochs.
Byrd has been the change-of-pace back. He's been lightning in a bottle for the Bears the past two weeks, rushing for 227 yards and four touchdowns on just seven carries.
"I love it," Byrd said. "I start on defense, but I have fun playing offense, too.
"I've just been following my blocks. My O-line has been a big part of it. We can't do anything without our blocks."
The Bears sit along atop the CCC, but they know a loss to Pitman could create chaos in the final two weeks.
"We're not just focused on league. We also know if we win, we're in the playoffs and that's a big goal for our team," Scheidt said. "A win would also give us some separation from Pitman in the standings. Right now, we're in control. One of the worst things is going into Week 9 and 10 and having to hope other teams win to help you out."
In other CCC action tonight Buhach Colony (3-4, 1-1) hosts Golden Valley (3-4, 1-1) in an attempt to stay in the CCC race if Merced should falter.
Atwater (4-3, 1-1) also heads to Turlock (4-3, 0-2) in what could be a crucial game as far as the Falcons playoff chances.
Shawn Jansen is a Sun-Star sports reporter. He can be reached at 385-2462 or firstname.lastname@example.org.