PALM HARBOR — As defenders, Quentin Cumings and Connor Dorris are among the best at corralling ballcarriers.
As ballcarriers, Cumings and Dorris are equally adept at shedding defenders.
In a sport where specialization is everywhere, from cover corners to rush ends to pass-catching running backs, the Palm Harbor University standouts continue to play football the old-fashioned way: one platoon.
They have even more of a workload in Friday’s Class 8A region quarterfinal at Vero Beach. With the status of running backs Demetri Royer and Jonah Fiskaa still uncertain because of concussions sustained two weeks ago, Cumings and Dorris could be asked to handle the bulk of the carries on offense.
The possibility of playing nearly every snap thrills Cumings.
“I’d absolutely love it,” he said. “I want to be out there every play. I never want to leave the field.”
The time commitment (double meetings, double film sessions) and the complexity of the modern game should make it more difficult to go both ways these days.
But there is one overwhelming factor that accounts for the Hurricanes’ two-way trend this week: the compelling talent of the players being asked to do it.
Cumings, a a 6-foot-1, 230-pound senior linebacker, has been PHU’s best player on the field. He has the stats to prove it. He leads the team in tackles (81) and fumble recoveries (two) and is second on the team in sacks (six). Two weeks ago, he had eight tackles, 74 yards receiving and 25 rushing against East Lake.
“Quentin has been the heart of our defense,” coach Matt LePain said. “Not only does he make plays, he gets everyone lined up where we need to be. I need him in there on every play on defense because there is a drop-off when he is not in there.”
Dorris, a 6-foot, 180-pound junior, anchors a strong defensive line and has 48 tackles and four sacks.
“Our defensive line is one of the best units we have, and Connor ranks right up there with any of them,” LePain said.
The abundance of players serving as double threats creates more game-changing opportunities. But having too many of the same players on offense and defense can have drawbacks — with fatigue being the biggest factor.
“Ideally, we would like to have Quentin and Connor playing the entire game on defense and using them in spot duty on offense,” LePain said. “But we feel they can handle playing both ways most of the game.”
Cumings and Dorris rank as the second- and third-leading rushers on the team. But each is averaging more than 5 yards per carry.
Their ability to move the chains will be critical for PHU, which plans to play smash-mouth football to counter Vero Beach’s wide open offense.
“We have to run right at them,” Dorris said.
“We have to go through them because we don’t have the guys to go around them,” Cumings said.
If they can do that, the Hurricanes would make the region semifinals a second straight year and set up a possible rematch with East Lake.
“Our goals are to make the playoffs …and practice on Thanksgiving,” Cumings said. “We can still do that. And we might have a chance to play East Lake again. That’s a big motivator for us.”
Class 8A region quarterfinal
Palm Harbor University (8-2) at Vero Beach (8-1), Citrus Bowl
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Scouting report: Indians quarterback Dalton Stokes has thrown for 2,109 yards and 22 touchdowns this season. He is able to spread the ball around and has four receivers with more than 300 yards. Vero Beach has won four straight games and is averaging 34 points per game during this streak.
Last playoff appearances: Palm Harbor U. lost 33-26 to East Lake in last year’s region semifinals; Vero Beach lost 41-22 to East Lake in last year’s region quarterfinals.
Bob Putnam can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.