There’s no position the team is stocked with more big playmakers than running back.
Actually, one of the biggest playmakers on the team is only 5-foot-2 — Oberlin’s Kiylan Bugg.
“The all-star game is all about big plays,” Stars and Keystone coach Rob Clarico said. “You’re not going to be a precision team where you’re going to go 80 yards down the field 3 or 4 yards at a time. You want some big plays, and he’s a playmaker.”
The Stars team will meet the Stripes team tonight in the Sliman’s Lorain County All-Star Football Classic in Eaton Township.
Bugg will be one of the featured running backs, but should also see action on the line as a slot receiver and on special teams as a kickoff and punt returner.
“I can’t wait for the opening kickoff and my first punt return,” he said. “I’m hoping to take the first (kickoff) back. That’s my goal going into the game.”
When it comes to skill positions, the Stars will be relying heavily on its running backs, which outnumber the quarterbacks and wide receivers.
The team boasts six running backs — Avon Lake’s Wyatt Ohm, Columbia’s Jacob Kleinhenz, Midview’s Devon Crum and Derek Ruffner, Bugg and Wellington’s Jujuan Howard — while it has only four receivers and Shoremen senior David Winkel is the lone quarterback.
“I like running the ball and we have a lot of talent there, so I think that’s something we want to do on offense for sure,” Clarico said. “I like the way David Winkel from Avon Lake throws the ball so I’m not going to be afraid to call a good number of passes during the game, too.”
But chances are several of those passes are going to end up in the hands of running backs.
Because of the disparity in the offense, Clarico plans to use running backs in different positions. Most of them can expect to join Bugg as slot receivers at some point in the game.
“I played slot in high school the last couple of years, so I’m looking forward to it,” Kleinhenz said. “It’s just another fun element of the offense that we get to get involved in. With the amount of running backs we have, we’re all going to get a decent amount of touches.”
Besides depth at the position, the Stars also boast diversity.
Bugg is considered the speedster, who can cut and make a defender miss in the open field. Kleinhenz plays more of a fullback role, taking the handoff and bull-rushing his way through the middle of the line. Ohm is a mixture of the two.
“I think we have a lot of options with our running backs,” Ohm said. “We can go on the edge, up the middle … we have a running back for whatever we need at the time.
“It makes me work harder, knowing I have good guys surrounding me.”
While the Stripes team will have to worry about the backfield bunch, it may also have to keep an eye on Winkel, who scrambled for big gains several times during a practice at Ross Field on Tuesday.
“He’s a tough kid. We have a good chemistry. I know he’ll get the job done,” said Ohm, who provided a good one-two punch for the Shoremen with Winkel last season. “I know we’re going to have a good attack game. I know our running game is strong. Our passing game will open up as the game goes on.”
Not that Clarico wants to throw too many times. With the all-star teams getting only a week of practice — each squad scheduled three — he knows the offensive linemen didn’t get a lot of time to jell and they might miss a block here or there that could leave Winkel vulnerable.
“I wouldn’t say it’s going to be a ground-and-pound game from our side because I do think we have the opportunity to put the ball in the air,” Clarico said. “But if you go out there and throw the ball 80 times, you’re putting him in harm’s way and he’s the only quarterback on the roster. So I don’t know what we’re going to do if he gets hurt.”
That’s why the running backs know their role in keeping the pressure off Winkel could be crucial to the team’s success. Bugg doesn’t believe Winkel will need to throw a lot … because he expects to pick up big gains when he touches the ball.
“I’m going to at least try to break two (long runs),” Bugg said. “I’m pretty confident in myself and I don’t believe anyone can contain me throughout a game.
“But I’m also looking forward to catching passes. I caught some bubble screens and swing passes in high school, but never got to go deep. I’m going to get some flys and longer pass patterns … I’m really looking forward to that.”
Wyatt Ohm, Avon Lake, RB/DB; Sam McKinley, Avon Lake, OL/DL; Austin Doyle, Avon Lake, OL/DL; Grant Davis, Avon Lake, OL/DL; Jack Laraway, Avon Lake, OL/DL; David Winkel, Avon Lake, QB; Al Pivcevich, Avon Lake, OL/DL; Trevor Anderson, Avon Lake, LB; Austin Walaszewski, Columbia, WR; Ben Verbus, Columbia, WR/OLB; Jacob Kleinhenz, Columbia, RB/ILB; Dan Loub, Columbia, DL; Justin Reznik, Columbia, DB; Sean Nagle, Columbia, DB; Darius Badford, Elyria, OL/DL; Zac Wilson, Midview, WR/S; Jared Armstrong, Midview, WR; Patrick Forrer, Midview, OL/DL; Anthony Jaloweic, Midview, OL/DL; Jack Duffner, Midview, TE/DL; Devon Crum, Midview, RB/ILB; Derek Ruffner, Midview, RB/LB; Brendan Matcham, Midview, P/K; Kiylan Bugg, Oberlin, RB; Sam Miller, Wellington, DL; Jujuan Howard, Wellington, RB/DB.