During his daily existence at Amherst High School, Brandon Kish is never far from reminders of his older brother Ryan, one of the most celebrated players in Comets football history.
Brandon inherited Ryan’s old locker. A plaque hangs prominently there honoring his name, his graduation year and jersey number.
Last season, when Brandon finally got his chance to begin forging his own legacy as an Amherst running back, observers made the obvious connection. Could Brandon be as good as his brother?
The answer is hard to say. They are two very different individuals that play two very different positions on the football field. Ryan, who transferred from Saginaw Valley State University to Baldwin-Wallace over the summer, was a standout linebacker at Amherst, famed for delivering menacing hits. Brandon, with his breakaway speed and shifty moves, has quickly emerged as one of the top backfield runners in the county.
“Ryan was my favorite player growing up,” said Kish, now in his junior season. “When I was a freshman, I got to play with him. I liked it most when I was on the scout team, because when he was on defense, I got to run against him.”
On one occasion, working against the first-team on defense, Brandon caught a swing pass toward the right sideline. Out of the corner of his eye, Brandon saw his older brother closing in and turned on the jets.
“I was pretty sure I could outrun him — because I was used to outrunning most everybody,” remembers Brandon. “But I didn’t and, man, he sent me flying.”
These days, it seems no one can catch Kish. After rushing for 1,242 yards and nine touchdowns as a sophomore in 2006, Kish opened the 2007 season with a bang, gaining 196 yards and three touchdowns in a loss to Nordonia in Week 1.
On a night in which Kish was ripping off long gains with stunning regularity against a powerful Nordonia defense, including a 57-yard burst for a score in the fourth quarter, it was the more subtle parts of his performance that made the bigger impression on his coach, Kevin Fell.
“Yeah, he had that nice run for a touchdown, but that wasn’t as impressive to me as the third play of the game,” said Fell, who is in his first year as Amherst’s head coach. “He took the handoff and really didn’t have anything, so he just put his head down and drove it up in there for 4 yards. That shows you he’s a good back.”
Running backs with Kish’s ability often fall in love with their own speed — certain they can outrun any opponent around the corner. But that temptation can easily slip into habit — allowing the offense to grow one-dimensional, too geared toward the sidelines, while ignoring the middle of the field.
Kish is highly aware of this and thrives on the contact that comes with taking it up the gut.
“I like running inside a lot more now,” said Kish. “It used to be that I’d just outrun the defense to the sideline. But I’ve learned to make more reads inside, to follow the blocks. It’s about becoming more of a running back and less of just an athlete.”
For all his speed, Kish is well-built for his position at 6 feet tall and 190 pounds. When Fell attended the regional track and field meet in the spring, he was shocked at how much bigger Kish was when standing alongside other athletes.
“He towers over the rest of those guys that sprint,” said Fell. “He’s not a track man that plays football. He’s a football player that just happens to be pretty fast.”
When Kish began racking up 100-yard performances every week last year as a sophomore, he was aided in large part by a senior-dominated offensive line that was among the best in the Southwest Conference.
That line graduated all but one starter, Bill Nagel, and has been reinforced by several lesser-known names such as Drew Phillips, Brandon Irvin, Dominic Orseno and Tom Chaszar, along with Paul Brown and Jason Carrero.
“They came together very quickly and our run blocking really didn’t miss a beat,” Kish said. “A lot of them are in my grade — like Irvin, Orseno and Brown — and I haven’t played with them since we were playing in the eighth grade.”
Kish and the Amherst running game were deadly in Week 1, but it wasn’t enough to overcome Nordonia, which built a commanding early lead thanks to two first-quarter touchdowns of 45 and 48 yards, respectively.
“I think we should have won that game,” Fell said. “We all felt we let one slip away. We gave up a couple cheap touchdowns and we made some mistakes at the end. But that’s something we can clean up.”
Amherst will face another formidable opponent tonight in West Shore Conference powerhouse Midview. The Middies feature one of Lorain County’s top defensive units, led by linebacker Ross Moore, cornerback Adam Koubek and defensive end Drew Ebersole. Last week, Midview held Elyria to minus-4 yards rushing as a team.
“This will be a big test for all of us,” Kish said. “Everyone will be out there hitting pretty hard.”
Contact Pete Alpern at 329-7137 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.