With a rushing performance against J.P. Stevens that placed him among the all-time leaders in a host of categories at Piscataway High School, junior running back Elijah Barnwell now stands just 14 yards away from becoming the Chiefs’ career yardage leader.
The accomplishment is remarkable considering Piscataway’s storied history of gifted running backs and outstanding offensive linemen and that Barnwell — who has rushed for 2,834 yards, second only to Tevin Shaw’s 2,848 yards — has competed in just 26 games.
Barnwell’s 227 rushing yards against the Hawks on Friday night ranks seventh among Piscataway’s single-game record holders and his four touchdowns in that contest are the second most a Chief has scored in a game.
Only Aaron Gere and Shaw, who each rushed for five touchdowns against Sayreville in 1996 and versus J.P. Stevens in 2011, respectively, scored more times on the ground in a game.
Despite the fact that Piscataway has played just four times this season (19 other Greater Middlesex Conference teams have played five games), Barnwell is the league’s rushing leader with 701 yards.
He is the Home News Tribune’s Football Player of the Week after helping the Chiefs, ranked No. 1 in the Home News Tribune Top 10, improve to 4-0 with a 48-14 win.
An outstanding linebacker, Barnwell is also Piscataway’s second-leading tackler, behind standout Aidan Rosa.
Piscataway head coach Dan Higgins said he is not sure what position Barnwell, who holds a scholarship offer from Rutgers but is being heavily recruited by a host of schools including Notre Dame and Maryland, projects to play at the next level.
“That’s the question (recruiters) ask me all the time,” Higgins said. “I can’t call it. I think he’s a football player. It depends on needs and where you see him in your scheme. I can see him fit defensively or as a nice downhill power running back for a power football team. He can play either side of the ball, easily.”
With a talented but inexperienced offensive line, Higgins was unsure how the Chiefs would fare running the ball this season. Obviously, they have enjoyed tremendous success.
“They are starting to figure out and learn all the line blocking schemes and their technique is improving,” Higgins said of his linemen including Terrell Hagans, who has emerged as one of the league’s best. “They are staying low, moving their feet, doing all the things we are looking for. They are wide bodies, technically sound and come off the ball hard.”
Barnwell — who is bigger, stronger and faster than a year ago — is hitting the hole as hard as any running back in the league.
“He always had incredible reading ability and great hips, which are things you can’t teach,” Higgins said. “Because his body is developing, he’s using his football ability to accentuate what he’s already got. People are having a hard time bringing him down. His yards after contact are racking up.”
The Chiefs predominantly utilize Barnwell between the tackles because they like him to run North-South, but they perceive the toss to be a downhill play for Barnwell, even though it’s outside of the tackle box.
“We want his hips going toward the line of scrimmage,” Higgins said, noting Barnwell also benefits from the fact that the Chiefs are trying to spread the field more this year, which creates running room for Barnwell and fullback Zaire Ashley.
The development of quarterback Danny Haus, who likes to throw off play-action, makes the Chiefs tougher to defend.
“You are seeing productivity from a lot of people,” Higgins said, noting the Chiefs are “trying to stretch the field so you can’t lock on one dimension.”
Barnwell, who has scored 33 times on the ground, also is on pace to become the school’s career rushing touchdown leader.
He currently ranks third at Piscataway in that department and needs eight more rushing touchdowns to surpass Shaw, who scored 40 times on the ground.
A durable workhorse back, Barnwell’s 372 carries ranks third in school history.
PISCATAWAY’S ALL-TIME RUSHING LEADERS
1. Tevin Shaw, 2,848
2. Elijah Barnwell, 2,834
3. Barry Garrard, 2,623
4. Tyshnn Jackson, 2,123
5. Devraun Thompson, 2,080
6. Kevin Woofolk, 1,958
7. Brian Spence, 1,906
8. Dejon Welcome, 1,669
9. Kelwin Veras, 1,550
10. Eric Wainwright, 1,523
1. Devraun Thompson, 431
2. Barry Garrard, 373
3. Elijah Barnwell, 372
4. Tevin Shaw, 354
5. Tyshnn Jackson, 329
6. Dejon Welcome, 322
7. Brian Spence, 300
8. Myles Savage, 270
9. Kevin Woofolk, 268
1. Tevin Shaw, 40
2. Barry Garrard, 39
3. Elijah Barnwell, 33
4. Devraun Thompson, 29
5. Kevin Woofolk, 28
6. Eric Wainwright and Tyshnn Jackson, 26
7. Anthony Tillman, 25
8. Dejon Welcome, 24
9. Aaron Gere, 23
10. Steven Miller, 19
SINGLE GAME RECORD – YARDS
1. Tevin Shaw, 304 (vs. Elizabeth, 12/3/11)
2. Tyshnn Jackson, 300 (vs. Franklin, 11/28/98)
3. Kelwin Veras, 289 (vs. Old Bridge, 10/16/98)
4. Tevin Shaw, 235 (vs. Edison, 9/11/10)
5. Tevin Shaw, 234 (vs. Monroe, 10/1/11)
6. Brandon Stout, 232 (vs. Phillipsburg, 11/20/10)
7. Elijah Barnwell, 227 (vs. J.P. Stevens, 10/9/15) and Aaron Gere, 227 (vs. Sayreville, 11/16/96)
8. Brian Spence, 227 (vs. Matawan, 9/18/76)
9. Kevin Woofolk, 225 (vs. Linden, 11/12/05)
10. Cameron Nash, 219 (vs. Elizabeth, 12/7/12)
SINGLE GAME RECORD – TDS
1. Aaron Gere, 5 (vs. Sayreville, 11/16/96) and Tevin Shaw, 5 (vs. J.P. Stevens, 10/14/11)
2. Elijah Barnwel, 4 (vs. Old Bridge, 11/7/14; vs. J.P. Stevens, 10/9/14) and seven others