MELBOURNE – Abundance has not usually been synonymous with Eau Gallie football.
Just months ago, it was not what Commodores football coach Tim Powers thought he would have in his backfield. Tyvone Brooks showed promise, but he was coming straight out of youth league football and might bear a significant chunk of the workload as a sophomore.
Statistically, of the 1,602 yards of rushing in 2014, the returning ball carriers had been responsible for 110, none with more than 67 yards and none with the primary responsibility of playing running back this season.
Just as trouble can swamp a team all at once during a football game, positive things can flood a program as well. But that’s been rare at Eau Gallie, one of Brevard’s oldest schools but with among the fewest postseason appearances: three.
Eau Gallie hosts Cocoa Beach tonight at 7. Through five games, the Commodores have four productive ball carriers, each with his own style of play.
“They definitely give us options, but the best thing is just the fact that all four are fierce competitors,” Powers said. “They’re capable of grinding it out for a yard when they need to, and they’re capable of being explosive with the ball.”
In last Thursday’s win over Bayside, Jalen Shelton was both. He broke free for a 35-yard run on his first carry, but in his 17 rushes, he had five of four yards or fewer. It was his 60-yard touchdown run in the third period, when he wove his way down the Eau Gallie sideline following blockers and dodging defenders, that Shelton showed his best talents all in one run.
“He can be grumpy, but he’s very athletic,” said Ken McKay, a sophomore back and the newest member of the group. “He has got great vision, smart with the ball, probably our best running back.”
Powers called Shelton “the grandfather of the group” as a junior, adding Shelton is “an old school I-formation back, powerful in between the tackles and patient.” Shelton, with 653 season yards, gained 214 in the Bayside win, which moved the Commodores to 3-2 overall and 1-1 in District 14-6A.
Eau Gallie rolls in district victory
That 1-1 mark includes a 53-14 loss to Heritage on Sept. 18, but the Panthers have established themselves as a Brevard power and have advanced to the last two 6A regional final rounds. By taking a 14-8 lead to the end of the first period, the Commodores proved their future as a team is promising.
And of the four talented running backs Powers has this year — sophomore Mario Harris the fourth — the number who will still have eligibility next year? All four.
Though Brooks is the smallest of the group, Powers called him the most electrifying.
“He’s the new-age running back, runs out of the spread, a scatback,” Powers said. “He doesn’t necessarily need a fullback. He will find the crease and go.”
Brooks ran for 71 yards on 11 carries the last time out. McKay, who said Brooks is the most likely to end up playing in college, gained 44 yards and scored on a 15-yard run. Powers can use McKay as a blocker or line him up at quarterback. Both Brooks and Harris called him an all-around player.
Harris scored on a 29-yard run in the Bayside win. He can be used, according to Powers, as “an old school I-formation fullback” with Shelton. Brooks said opponents would be wise not to underestimate his teammate’s power.
“Mario doesn’t care who you are; he’ll come at you, and he’s stronger than you think he is by looking at him.”
With half the season remaining, Powers and his coaches continue to add new packages and new wrinkles to take advantage of their running back variety and depth. It may be that depth that is the group’s best attribute.
“Any time you have competition at any spot, it’s healthy for the team,” Powers said. “My biggest challenge is to get all of them or a combination of them on the field.”
Contact McCallum at 321-242-3698 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Brian_McCallum and at facebook.com/FLtoday.brianmccallum.
High school sports | floridatoday.com/sports/high-school-sports/
Tonight’s high school football games
Astronaut at Rockledge, 7 p.m.
Melbourne at Heritage, 7
Palm Bay at Viera, 7
Cocoa Beach at Eau Gallie, 7
Sebastian River at Bayside, 7
Lakeland Christian at Melbourne CC, 7
Agape Christian at Holy Trinity, 7
Space Coast at Poinciana, 7
Merritt Island Christian at Int’l Community, 7