ST. JOHNS – The discussions started during track season as Steven Linton and Blake Stewart envisioned opportunities to fill bigger roles on the football field.
The senior running backs have even exceeded their own expectations with their contributions for the St. Johns football team.
Linton and Stewart have formed one of the top tailback tandems in mid-Michigan this season, combining to run for 1,477 yards and 18 TDs for St. Johns, which has a chance to clinch a spot in the postseason and capture the outright CAAC Red title Friday when it faces Division 3 No. 4-ranked DeWitt.
“It’s been great,” Stewart said. “I don’t think either of us honestly expected this kind of season to come out of both of us. It’s just been great that we’ve been both racking up yards and being a dual threat. We’re having one team prepare for him one week and then they can’t stop the runs that I do. Then they’ll prepare for me and then they can’t stop him.
“It’s just been perfect the way it’s been working out.”
Linton and Stewart have each had games of more than 250 yards rushing this season for the Redwings (5-1, 4-0) during their current four-game winning streak. And the pair has fed off each other and hasn’t been concerned about which one is getting the ball.
“Our line has been doing an amazing job of making these holes and for us it’s just like a race,” said Linton, who credits senior Collin Rosendale for paving the way for many of his runs. “They open the hole and we run through it.”
St. Johns coach Dave Mariage has noticed growth from both players this fall. Linton is stronger and has better balance, while Stewart has a better grasp of what the Redwings are trying to do with their ground attack.
“(Steven) has much greater balance this year,” Mariage said. “He’s always had the explosiveness and now he’s got some lateral movement. Blake is Blake. Blake’s just fast and understanding a little bit more to have vision on the inside trap and (isolation) plays. That’s been his biggest improvement.”
The growth of Linton and Stewart combined with a young offensive line that’s come together have provided a winning combination for a Redwing offense averaging 39 points.
“Me and Blake know we’re just a small part to the equation,” Linton said. “The linemen don’t get enough recognition for what they do. Without the linemen me and Blake go nowhere.
“The chemistry that we have is what makes us a good team. Without the linemen we don’t work and without us the linemen can’t work. It needs to go back and forth.”
Contact Brian Calloway at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @brian_calloway.