West Greene’s Benjamin Jackson was in the spotlight during the entire 2019 high school football season, and rightfully so with his amazing accomplishments.
Jackson rushed for 3,079 yards, averaged 15.2 yards per attempt and scored 50 touchdowns this year to end his career with 7,105 yards and 102 TDs. He became the third-leading rusher in WPIAL history and surpassed former Pioneer Rodney Wilson as Greene County’s all-time leading runner.
With the “King of Greene” now on his way out, as well as his Pioneer teammate Kolin Walker who had a fine season in his own right with 952 yards and 8.5 yards per carry, who’s next in line?
Actually, there are a handful of talented runners in Greene County ready to fight for supremacy in 2020.
While the second-leading rusher in the county, Waynesburg Central’s Trevor Stephenson also graduates, the running backs who finished third, fourth and fifth in rushing yards in Greene County were all underclassmen. Walker was the county’s sixth-leading runner.
Stephenson put up 1,075 yards on 183 carries for a 5.9 average.
Jefferson-Morgan junior Jonathan Wolfe was third and had a strong season that may have gotten over-shadowed, but Rockets’ coach Aaron Giorgi certainly noticed.
The hard-charging Wolfe was the first J-M running back to go over 1,000 yards since 2012. He racked up 1,075 yards in 164 carries for a 6.2 averaged and scored 80 points with 12 touchdowns and four 2-point conversions.
Giorgi cited the great shape Wolfe is in as one of the key factors that led to his fine year.
“Jonathan reaching the 1,000-yard milestone is a testament to hard work in the offseason and his durability,” Giorgi said. “Jonathan is an impact player on both offense and defense and plays all the special teams, so to have the energy to compete at a high level for an entire game is a result of his preparation and conditioning.”
A stellar season by any running back is almost always the product of a strong offensive line, and it was no different for Wolfe and J-M.
“While Jonathan gets credit individually for the yardage he racked up, this is truly a team accomplishment,” Giorgi said. “We had a relatively young and inexperienced line and lead blockers that stepped up and learned how to compete as the season wore on.”
The threat of a passing attack helps out the running game as well.
“Our ability to pass the ball with a freshman quarterback (Cole Jones) and young receivers allowed us to remain balanced throughout the year and not allow defenses to pack the box with defenders.”
Wolfe did his part, too, of course, as Giorgi pointed out.
“That being said, some of Jonathan’s most impressive runs came when everyone knew we were running the ball and he grinded out yard and important first downs,” Giorgi said.
With a bulk of the Rockets’ roster returning, Wolfe could be in line for a monster season in 2020.
An even younger running back was Greene County’s fourth-leading rusher and second-leading scorer.
Mapletown freshman Landan Stevenson rolled for 987 yards on 186 carries for a 5.3 average and scored 120 points with 18 touchdowns, five 2-point conversions and a pair of extra-point kicks.
Carmichaels will lose versatile Kevin Kelly, Greene County’s top rushing quarterback with 670 yards on 160 runs for a 4.2 average and 104 points on 17 touchdowns and a 2-point conversion, but Mikes’ running back Bailey Jones will return.
The junior was Greene County’s fifth-leading rusher with 866 yards on 135 attempts for a 6.4 average and scored six touchdowns and five 2-point conversions during coach Ryan Krull’s final season.
Even with Kelly gone, another dangerous running quarterback will be back next year in the Raiders’ Darnell Johnson who ran for 664 yards and averaged 5.4 yards a rush.
Kelly and Johnson were Greene County’s seventh- and eighth-leading rushers of 2019.
Jackson, along with Walker, Stephenson and Kelly, may have played the final games of their high-school careers, but Wolfe, Stevenson, Jones and Johnson are waiting in the wings to seize the spotlight in 2020.