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BRANDON — When asked about their best players, coaches normally follow a predictable script peppered with a few colorful words.
Playmaker. Workhorse. Gamer. And so on.
But when describing Brandon running back Tyrell Garner, both his coach and the one tasked with stopping him this week arrived at the same, plain word.
And that’s no hyperbole. Garner has personally produced 87 percent of Brandon’s total offensive yards this season, making him, quite simply, Brandon’s man.
“They’ve got that No. 6,” Durant coach Mike Gottman said of Garner. “He’s obviously the guy we have to slow down. I don’t know if you stop him, but you’ve got to get a lot of hats on him, because he runs through people, around people, he’s just a very talented back.”
The Cougars (1-1) will try to find some type of kryptonite for Garner on Friday night when he and the Eagles (1-1) land at Durant to open 7A-8 district play.
Why it’s Garner that has become so important, though, is a bit harder to pinpoint.
On a shadeless Brandon football field blanketed only by 91-degree heat and humidity, Garner, with his 5-foot-10, 185-pound frame, doesn’t stand out from the rest of the skill position players. Nevertheless, the senior’s most recent stat line jumps off the page.
Garner pummeled Freedom last week for 340 yards on 40 carries. More impressive was his 8.5 yards per carry average, revealing that he didn’t just break out for a few big plays but consistently wore down the Patriots.
Brandon coach John Lima thought his star back ran stronger as the game progressed.
“That’s the biggest thing different about this year,” Lima said. “He’s more aggressive, more physical, and he’s also playing defense, too, so he’s able to play on both sides of the ball and not get petered out. He even did that when we got killed by Armwood. He got better as the game went on, and he played tougher.”
Lima attributed the improvement in Garner’s late-game performance to his rise to No. 1 tailback on the depth chart rather than any type of physical change. Last season, Darius Lee was Brandon’s man as the Eagles soared to their first winning season since 2007. Since Lee and his 1,300 rushing yards are gone, Lima figures that Garner, now a year older and wiser, thrives knowing that the offense depends on him.
Garner pointed to another type of internal motivation.
“I hate to lose,” he said in laconic fashion.
When asked what is different, then, about this year that’s fueling his success, his reasoning was somewhat counterintuitive.
“We’re a lot smaller up front,” Garner said. “We spent more time working with the linemen because they are the youngest part of the team.”
Maybe it is a case of addition-by-subtraction at Brandon. Or maybe it’s just tough to attribute unseen causes to visible effects. If Garner keeps producing, then the Eagles won’t care that the “why” is a moot point. Besides, Lima already has his script, and he’s sticking to it.
“He’s the guy, he’s getting all the carries,” Lima said. “He’s the man.”