Yanking chains: Edgerton's Williams causes problems for defenses

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John Barry
Sunday, October 20, 2013

EDGERTON—How in the world does a 5-foot-6, 140-pound kid who didn’t start playing football until three years ago lead the state in rushing?

Better yet, how does someone the size of Ricky Williams not only survive but also thrive without some 250-pound linebacker crushing him?

Edgerton High coach Mike Gregory said the answer is simple.

“Because you never get a clean shot at him. That’s the bottom line, and that’s what makes him so special,” Gregory said of his talented tailback. “I think if you timed Ricky in the 40-yard dash, he would be as quick if you told him to make four cuts as he would be if he ran in a straight line.

“Ricky’s ability to cut and not lose speed is what separates him from other high school kids. When other kids cut, they have to roll their weight, plant and come back, whereas when Ricky cuts, he’s at full speed.”

The numbers Williams has put up this season for the Rock Valley North-champion Crimson Tide are staggering. The junior entered Friday night’s final regular-season game leading the state with 1,730 rushing yards. He was second behind Dillon Kempen of Suring with 216.2 yards per game. Kempen led with 219.3.

Williams has rushed for more than 300 yards in three games, including a school-record 343 in an impressive Rock Valley crossover win at Brodhead/Juda. Gregory is quick to point out that Williams’ numbers are in no way padded, as evidenced by his season-low total of 80 yards in a 49-6 win over McFarland on Oct. 11. Edgerton led 35-6 at half, and Williams played sparingly in the second half.

The soft-spoken Williams is averaging more than 10 yards per carry, has 22 rushing touchdowns and has fumbled only once in nearly 200 carries.

Although Williams still has a hard time believing he’s the No. 1 rusher in the state, he’s not totally surprised with his success.

“It kind of goes back to the Brodhead game,” Williams said. “It’s like a light bulb went off during that game, where I realized that if my line could continue to open up such big holes for me, that once I got to the second level my moves would allow me to get a lot more yards.

“But none of this would’ve been possible without my offensive line. They’ve made my job a lot easier.”

The offensive line of James McGuire, Chase Hackner, Dalton Ray, Jimmie Plautz and Adrian Radtke had T-shirts made before the season with the saying, “The line behind the headlines” printed on them.

That has certainly been the case, as Williams’ remarkable season has turned heads across the state.

Gregory continues to marvel at Williams’ consistency through eight games. The Crimson Tide is by no means a one-trick pony offensively. Lucas Gregory has excelled running Edgerton’s “Tim Tebow package” on offense at times, and quarterback Brooks Johnson has gotten better each week. Senior wideout Adam Converse has five touchdown receptions and is an imposing target for Johnson at 6-foot-5, but its Williams who remains the focal point for opposing defenses.

“I think the most impressive stat for me when talking about Ricky is the three-game stretch he put together versus Brodhead/Juda, Jefferson and East Troy,” Gregory said. “He had nearly 900 yards rushing in those three games, and that’s against two teams (Jefferson and East Troy) that were the Rock Valley North co-champions last year, and it started with Brodhead/Juda—a team that has been really good defensively all season.

“We hope teams try and put seven or eight in the box to try and stop Ricky, because we feel like we’re diversified enough on offense to exploit that. And Ricky still finds a way to get his yards. I couldn’t even tell you how many broken plays Ricky has turned into something positive, including a couple of long touchdown runs on busted plays.”

Williams said winning a state rushing title would be rewarding, but a long playoff run is what matters most. He believes the Crimson Tide has proven it can play with anybody.

The rest of the state knows Ricky Williams can run with anybody.

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