LITHIA — As Newsome coach Ken Hiscock was preparing his game plan last week, he knew he needed his best 11 players on the field to have any chance at slowing down Armwood’s high-scoring offense.
It didn’t matter that senior Conner Powers, best known for his power running out of the backfield, hadn’t played a single down on defense during his high school career. He was, without question, going to line up against the Hawks.
With the same natural ability and work ethic that make the 5-foot-10, 220-pound fullback one of the county’s top running backs, Powers stepped up to the challenge as middle linebacker and finished with 11 tackles, though the Wolves lost 42-7.
Just add the seamless transition to starting linebacker to Powers’ list of accomplishments. Hiscock’s “bowling ball” of a running back was the perfect fit for Newsome’s Wing-T offense, and that system has allowed Powers to flourish as a runner.
“He’s tough. He’s a workhorse on offense. We’re going to put the ball in his hands as many times as we can get it in there,” Hiscock said. “On defense, we’re going to keep him in there as long as he’s breathing. He’s worked hard.”
He was the only freshman to start the whole season in 2007, racking up 942 yards, and he ran for 1,164 yards as a sophomore. The burly fullback was averaging more than 100 yards per game before a PCL tear prematurely ended his junior season.
Powers’ teammates compared him to Mike Alstott, even dubbing him “C Train” after the former Bucs fullback. Powers wore Alstott’s No. 40 until he was forced to take No. 12, the last available jersey, as a freshman.
“You don’t see a lot of fullbacks in today’s game because everybody’s running the spread,” Hiscock said. “To have him is a blessing. The more tired he gets, the better he gets to playing. He’s a great asset to Newsome football.”
Any other running back who earns that kind of high praise or puts up numbers like his would likely be garnering interest from Division I-A schools. But not Powers.
Between the unknown ramifications of his torn PCL and potential concerns about his size, Powers’ stock dropped to the point that he has yet to receive any major offers.
“It was terrible. Junior year, that’s the big year for high school football players, and I couldn’t play half that,” Powers said. “No one wants to recruit a player when they don’t know if he can even play.”
He has shown no signs of slowing down since returning, rushing for 102 yards against Spoto in a 13-12 preseason win and picking up 77 yards on 11 carries against Armwood.
Powers sees himself as a D-I blocking fullback, though he would also like the opportunity to run the ball more at a smaller school. As the season wears on and Powers continues to prove himself, he said programs will probably start gaining interest.
“I’m 100 percent positive I can hang at that level and do what I need to do at that level,” Powers said.
As for the immediate future, Hiscock will rely on Powers to be the team’s workhorse, pounding the ball up the middle while leading the defense from the middle linebacker spot for as long as he can.
Or, as Powers put it: “I’m going to play it for the rest of the year, or until I screw it up.”