ST. PETERSBURG — He is listed on the St. Petersburg roster as Deangelo Reeves. But to those who know him, he is “Peanut.”
It is not the most intimidating nickname for a 5-foot-11, 185-pound senior back with above-average speed, but don’t take the name lightly.
Peanut has been running like a monster this season.
“I only call him Deangelo when I’m mad at him,” Green Devils coach Joe Fabrizio said.
And that hasn’t been often.
Reeves has solidified himself as St. Petersburg’s top back two games into the season. He has 27 carries for 270 yards and five touchdowns, one more than he had last season.
In a rout of Clearwater last week, Reeves rushed for four touchdowns. In the opener against Gibbs, he broke open the game with a 90-yard second-half score.
“It’s not just me, we have a lot of guys who can run the ball,” Reeves said. “So I’ve got to keep working hard and I tell the other guys to work hard also. We need to push each other, go game speed in practice, make each other better.”
Like most seasons, St. Petersburg lives and dies with its running game. Sophomore Darius Miller is second on the team with 98 yards and a touchdown, and sophomore Jacquel Waller has 73 yards and one score. What they lack is experience, which is where Reeves comes in.
He started getting noticed by coaches last season, a bright spot on a team that finished 4-6. By midseason, Maurice Hemingway was moved to defensive back almost exclusively and Reeves got the bulk of the carries. He finished the season with 122 carries for 752 yards and four touchdowns.
“He became our main back midway through last season,” Fabrizio said. “What you see with Deangelo is that he is more experienced. He’s to the point where he knows where the cuts are going to be. … He has a feeling for the offense.”
With the offense running as smoothly as it has in a while, St. Petersburg has been hard to stop. It outscored Gibbs and Clearwater by a combined 77-7.
Thursday night’s opponent, Lakewood, will be the toughest test to date. The Spartans (1-1) have seen film of St. Petersburg and will focus on stopping the run. That means stopping Reeves, who doesn’t mind having a target on his back.
“Teams are going to load up the box on us,” he said. “It’s not a problem. I think we have the talent to overcome that.”
In fact, Reeves thinks his team has the talent to overcome any regular-season foe.
“I see us being an undefeated team, I’m that confident,” Reeves said. “The offense has been playing well, but I think our defense is one of the best in the county.”
That kind of confidence was not evident last season. Reeves says the difference is leadership.
“Last year, the program was just out of it for some reason,” he said. “The seniors didn’t really do their job. This year the seniors are stepping up and being leaders.”
One thing Reeves lacks is interest from college coaches. Fabrizio thinks that should change.
“He’s a good back,” he said. “There’s no doubt in my mind he should be getting recruited. He improved his speed by running track last year. He can catch the ball out of the backfield. He’s not afraid to block. … I don’t think there’s anybody much better than him.”
And if college coaches don’t come around?
“I’m going to college,” Reeves said. “Maybe not to play football; I hope so, but either way I’m going to college.”