After biding his time as a freshman on a team stacked with senior running backs, Black River’s Andrew Vaughn burst onto the scene as a sophomore.
He led the Pirates to their eighth postseason berth that season. And while he posted glittering rushing statistics the last two seasons, he certainly seems to have saved his best for last.
It started the first week of the season, when Vaughn racked up 354 yards rushing on 24 carries in a 40-14 win over Western Reserve.
“It was an unbelievable night,” longtime Black River coach Al Young said. “We knew it was going to be tough slugging out there and he’s just that kind of kid where, every time he touches the ball, he’s a threat to go the distance. He’s a brilliant runner.”
The tailback recently went over 5,000 yards for his career, becoming the first Black River player to do so. And he raised his season total to 1,375 yards and 17 rushing touchdowns last Friday with a 30-carry, 212-yard performance in a 37-21 win over Patriot Athletic Conference foe Wellington.
It was Black River’s first win over their rivals in three seasons.
“He’s an excellent running back, that’s for sure,” Wellington coach Matt Stoll said. “He’s a four-year starter. Like we always say, it seems like he’s been down there forever. From what I’ve seen over the years, he’s a complete player. He’s a hard runner, he can catch the ball and he’s a competitor.
“There’s no secret to what Coach Young is going to do. He’s going to run the football and try to control the line of scrimmage.
“That’s a credit to Andrew Vaughn in him getting the yards that he’s been able to get. He’s very deceptively quick. That’s the thing, he makes people miss. Once he gets out into the open field, he’s hard to bring down.”
Vaughn, who averages 9.0 yards per carry and averages 228.5 yards and 2.7 touchdowns a game, has not rushed for fewer than 149 yards in six games this season. In fact, he’s rushed for more than 200 yards five times.
And as good as his Week 1 performance was, it was only 2 yards more than the previous school record —- which he set last season against Fairview.
“I just think it starts with just having fun,” Vaughn said of his success. “We’ve got a great offensive line and I’ve got great backfield mates in Colin Filak and David Bell. Us three and our line and quarterback Vernon Beard, we love playing football together.
“We’re all best friends and there are no egos among us. I think that’s the biggest reason why I have so much success. Football is not a chore for us. We just love going out there and having fun and doing it as much as we can, and we all have a singular focus — to do whatever it takes for us to win games.”
Vaughn is humbled by his statistics and the legacy he’s created, especially as the school’s all-time leading rusher.
“I can’t really describe the feeling,” he said. “There’s been such a great history of great running backs through here, starting with Charlie Moskal (the previous career rushing leader) on down. I’ve been blessed to play with some of them, like Austin Phillips. I don’t think you could fill those shoes because they were not only tremendous backs, but also tremendous people. It’s an honor to just be in the same category of those guys.”
The way Vaughn talks, if Young asked him to only block some Friday night, he’d gladly do it if that’s what needed to be done to win the game.
“It came easy to me because I love doing whatever coaches tell me to do and I do it to best of my ability — run, block, catch, whatever,” he said. “I definitely see myself as that type of guy. If my coach tells me to block, I’ll go block. If I have to run out and catch passes, I’ll do that. If they want me to play defense all game, I’ll do it. Whatever I can do, as long as I look up at the scoreboard and see Black River in front of the other team on the scoreboard when it’s all over, that’s good enough for me. But I play hard in any situation to make sure that’s the case.”
Vaughn credits Young as a “father figure” not just a head coach.
“He gets to know you,” Vaughn said. “He knows what makes you click. It’s an honor to play for him. He always says he knows more football than we’ll forget.
It’s such an honor playing for him every Friday night. Hopefully, we can keep winning like we have and get him and this school back to the playoffs.”
Vaughn also plays safety and proved he can be just as dominant on that side of the ball last week against Wellington when he sealed the win with a
102-yard interception return.
Ironically, he was primarily a defensive player before getting to high school.
“I always wanted to play offense but I never got to play it when I was younger because my coaches thought I was too hyper,” Vaughn said. “When I was a freshman, it was just my second year ever of playing offense. That’s the No. 1 thing when you’re playing varsity is how fast the game is. As a freshman, I was lost out there. Then the game started slowing down for me and it really slowed down for me as a sophomore.
“The biggest thing is experience. When you want to become a great high school player, getting that experience, especially so young, goes a long way. We’ve never had large numbers at Black River, but there’s definitely not a lack of talent that comes through here. I did have to bide my time a few games as a freshman, but I was fortunate to be playing with a lot of great seniors. I picked up some things from them and took it and ran with it.”
And just kept running.