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EAST LAKE — For months, the county’s most anonymous starting running back sat quietly in the middle of a maelstrom, watching as recruiting services and other members of the media followed his teammates around.
Weston Fordham does not sink into the background easily, but no player may need a “Hello, my name is …” tag more if East Lake (10-1) beats Vero Beach (9-1) in tonight’s Class 8A region semifinal to reach the third round for the second straight season.
As quarterback Pete DiNovo has rewritten the county passing record book, Fordham was not even a big enough part of the Eagles’ offense for most of the season to merit a footnote.
He has existed, instead, in the margins, throwing a block here, taking a handoff there, the embodiment of how the Eagles became more of a pass-happy bunch for stretches during the regular season.
“We’ve got so many great weapons on offense, especially in the passing game,” Fordham said. “We still run the ball and try to have some balance. I just try to make the most of my chances and help us win.”
Fordham’s rested legs are not part of a master plan. His season began promisingly enough when he ran for 125 yards in a season-opening win against Clearwater Central Catholic. He also ran for 114 yards against Ocala Trinity Catholic in the fourth game, and the bigger role anticipated for Tyler Lane’s replacement seemed set.
It was a role Fordham stumbled upon. A safety/linebacker last season, he filled in as the scout team running back one week and coaches saw enough that they thought filled the void in the running game once Lane graduated.
They were some big shoes to fill considering Lane rushed for more than 100 yards in seven straight games during the Eagles’ playoff push.
“Tyler was a great player for us, but Weston is a pretty good back, too,” East Lake coach Bob Hudson said. “They just have different styles. Weston is a little bit bigger, but he can still get his yards.”
But the biggest thing Fordham has had to battle is injuries. He missed most of the spring because of a strained meniscus. And he missed three games in the regular season after sustaining a concussion last month against North Port.
“I had a while for doctors to clear me after the concussion; I took a pretty good shot in that game,” Fordham said. “I still don’t remember the game or the day before.”
Fordham came back three weeks ago. He hasn’t racked up the yards, but he has shown a knack for finding the end zone, rushing for touchdowns in the past three games, including a 1-yard score in last week’s region quarterfinal win over Treasure Coast.
Tonight, he could have an even bigger role as the Eagles try to eat up the clock on long scoring drives to keep the Indians’ high-powered offense off the field.
“I’m just excited to be back and playing,” Fordham said. “And I’m really excited for this game.”