Defenses in the Central Valley will be on high alert once again this season. Defensive coordinators can expect plenty of sleepless nights as they remain on the lookout for a cast of characters as scary as they are talented.
A group of running backs the Sun-Star has dubbed The Getaway Boys.
Merced County has always been fertile ground for star running backs through the years. The list of great backs in the history of Merced High alone reads longer than Eric DeAnda's hair. The talent in the area hasn't dried up. Last year 10 players eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark, including three from Buhach Colony.
The names shouldn't surprise you. Dos Palos' Kevin Schofield and Los Banos' Darron Brown have been on the loose for three years, terrorizing defenses from Sacramento to Bakersfield.
However, this group is more than a dynamic duo. This band of game-breakers is growing quickly.
DeAnda broke into the starting lineup midway through the season and quickly became a household name after his record-setting 307-yard, four-touchdown performance in a 33-30 win over Buhach Colony. Dallon Muse made a name for himself as part of BC's three-headed monster, and Golden Valley's Tyler Arnsberg is the newest member of the group as he makes the move from quarterback to running back this year.
Together the quintet combined for 6,139 yards and 66 touchdowns. You can expect even bigger numbers this year. Opposing tacklers should approach with caution.
"The Delivery Man"
What can Brown do for you?
The Delivery Man doesn't need a signature to deliver a load. Brown comes into this season with something to prove after a lower back injury sidelined him for more than a month last year.
"I don't even know how to explain it," Brown said. "I wanted to play so bad, but I couldn't. There was nothing I could do.
"It hurt me so bad. It's made me want to come back this year even stronger."
Brown broke on the scene with 835 yards and 10 touchdowns as a sophomore two years ago.
He was limited to just 685 yards and five touchdowns last season.
Brown missed his frequent trips to the end zone.
"Yeah, I missed it a lot," he said. "This year I plan to be in the end zone a lot. More than five or 10 times.
"It's all up to my offensive line."
"The Iron Horse"
One look at Schofield and you can tell he's no stranger to the weight room.
Pumping iron is a necessity for the workload The Iron Horse is expected to shoulder this season.
Schofield set a school record with 51 carries in a 27-14 win over Yosemite last year.
His 305 carries were 130 more than any other player in the area.
"He's a tough football player," Los Banos coach Dennis Stubbs said. "The guy can do it all. He's so determined and has the drive, the right attitude.
"He plays full speed no matter what the situation. I'm just as impressed with him as a person, not only as a football player."
Schofield led the county with 1,926 yards.
It's almost as if he can find another gear when he senses the defense is getting tired.
"You can kind of see it," Schofield said. "You see their hands on their knees. They're walking back to the huddle.
"That's when you try to break one."
This Fly Boy can definitely ignite an offense.
With Corey Chapman (1,546 yards and 19 touchdowns) out indefinitely for a school-related disciplinary issue, Muse and teammate Jarrell Davis will be an even bigger part of the offense early on.
"When we evaluated him last year we felt because of all his contributions to their team he was their best player," Merced coach Rob Scheidt said. "Not only because of him running the ball, but also his play on defense and the intangibles he brings to their team.
"He's a great football player."
Muse has that combination of power and speed that makes him tough to bring down.
"I used to be more of a scat back," Muse said. "Now I'm more of a mix.
I learned that speed isn't always enough."
The nickname says it all.
DeAnda is built like a locomotive and isn't afraid of contact.
"I like it," DeAnda said. "It's kind of like a challenge. Is he going to bring me down or am I going to overpower him?"
If you look at the numbers you'll see DeAnda rose up to the challenges.
He's the ideal combination of power and speed. One play he's powering his way through the line picking up tough yardage. The next he may be streaking around the end, outrunning linebackers and defensive backs.
Despite not starting until midseason, he still racked up 1,152 yards with 14 touchdowns on 135 carries.
BC coach Kevin Swartwood got a good look at DeAnda during his record-setting performance.
"I immediately thought he was outstanding," Swartwood said. "He ran hard. He hit the hole fast. He didn't tire out. He's a very good back."
One look at Arnsberg's cleats and you'll understand why the Sun-Star has dubbed him Kid Zoom.
The GV junior had the word "zoom" embroidered on his cleats.
New Golden Valley coach Jake Messina is building his offense around Arnsberg.
Messina quickly identified Kid Zoom as the player he wants to carry the ball 15 to 20 times a game.
Arnsberg tallied 1,140 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground as a quarterback in Golden Valley's option attack last year.
This year he moves to tailback in a Pro Style offense.
"We want to hand him the ball, let him run downhill and give him a chance to make a cut," Messina said.
Arnsberg welcomed the change.
"I was basically another running back in the Veer anyway," Arnsberg said. "I threw the ball a little. Now running the ball is all I do. I'm real excited about the change."