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ST. PETERSBURG — Sept. 16 was the darkest day of Admiral Farragut’s season. Not only did the Blue Jackets lose 12-10 to district rival Canterbury, but they lost running back Cortavious Givens (knee injury) for the season.
Just after the game, coach Chris Miller had a talk with Todd Macon, his second-string running back. The gist of the conversation was this: Okay, kid, if we’re going to win this season, it’s all up to you.
“(Miller) pulled me aside and said, ‘You’re going to have to carry the team,’ ’’ said Macon, a junior. “I was like, ‘Whoa.’ I knew I was going to have to help the team, but I thought I’d have Cortavious with me. I went home and prayed about it.’’
Things didn’t get any easier when star receiver/running back Rayshawn Jenkins was lost for a few games due to a fractured rib. But the Blue Jackets kept winning. And winning. And winning.
And Macon started running harder than ever.
After a close call against Keswick Christian, in which AFA was without Jenkins, Givens and running back Napoleon Maxwell, the Blue Jackets faced district foe Carrollwood Day. Macon exploded for 225 yards rushing and four touchdowns in a come-from-behind 49-41 win.
Any doubts of whether Macon could carry the load were erased.
“That was a major confidence builder for our team,’’ Macon said. “We knew we couldn’t lose that game. Our season was on the line. We only had a goal to win the state championship, and if we didn’t win that game our season would be over. I told Coach at halftime, ‘If you need me, I’ll take over.’ After that we just took off.’’
The Blue Jackets (11-1) have rattled off nine straight wins, including a 38-24 victory in the rematch against Canterbury.
Jenkins is back and has taken some of the burden off Macon. They will both play a huge role in tonight’s Class 2A state semifinal against Belle Glade Glades Day (9-3). The offensive game plan won’t change. Macon is sure to get a majority of the carries, and he’ll help out at linebacker.
“Todd has become a force for us this year,’’ Miller said. “He was forced into that primary ball carrier role and he embraced it. He has become a glue for us, both offensively and defensively.’’
Adding to the playoff pressure is the fact that AFA faces one of the best running backs in the country, Kelvin Taylor. Unlike Taylor, Macon is more of a north-south runner who Miller says is stronger in the fourth quarter than the first.
“He’s powerful,’’ Miller said. “He gets better as the game goes on. It hurts to tackle Todd. He’s 200 pounds. He runs fast. He’s the strongest kid on the team. When somebody tackles him over and over and over again, they get tired of tackling him. He’s got great vision, he can make a move. But he can also run you over.’’
After 12 games, Macon has 130 carries for 1,042 yards and 10 touchdowns. He averages just over 8 yards per carry.
But stats aren’t what drives Macon. His motivation is looking at Givens on the sideline in street clothes.
“I was running with pain in my heart,’’ Macon said. “Me and Cortavious worked so hard in the offseason. We expected to both have 1,000-yard seasons. But once he went down I have to run for him. I’m doing this all for him.’’