PALM HARBOR — Ryan Myers knows what the other team is thinking.
“Is No. 28 really their starting running back?”
“He has to be a junior varsity call-up, right?”
“Man, this is going to be an easy night.”
At 5-foot-8 and barely 160 pounds, Palm Harbor University’s Myers does not strike fear in the opposition when he gets off the bus. By his own admission he is not very fast. He is certainly not big, even with pads on.
But, man, can Myers carry the football.
The senior has been a rock for the Hurricanes during this historic season. Myers has 210 carries for 1,091 yards and 10 touchdowns.
He also has 11 catches for 101 yards.
Take him lightly at your own risk.
“He takes a lot of the load off,” quarterback Billy Pavlock said. “He’s the workhorse. He gets all the yards and then I finish it off. That’s what it feels like. He carries the whole team for us.”
Thanks in large part to Myers and his pounding ground game, the Hurricanes (7-4) made the playoffs for the first time. They beat Centennial 20-17 last week and will try to win a second playoff game Friday in a rematch with East Lake.
Myers didn’t even switch to running back until late in his junior year, when injuries forced him to move from cornerback. He entered the year as the starting running back, but he didn’t think he’d get more than 200 carries.
“I had no idea that would be the case,” Myers said. “I just hoped to carry the ball some.”
First-year coach Matt LePain wanted to run the ball this season, and when he saw Myers in spring practice, he knew he had his guy.
“I told everyone in the spring that Ryan Myers is the sleeper,” LePain said. “No one knows who he is. But we have a run-oriented offense and we are going to pound the ball. That’s what he’s done.”
Pounding the ball with someone like Myers does not look like a good idea. In fact, it looks like it might be dangerous. After all, PHU is in Class 8A with the big boys. But LePain knew Myers could hold up.
“He’s 100 percent tough,” LePain said. “He’s a lunch-pail guy. Put on the work boots, go to work from 6 a.m. to 6 at night. Then do it again the next day. He’s just one of those guys.
“He tries to do the cutting and juking. But by about Week 5 I told him to run through and punish people. I don’t want him doing anything else. Get me my 5 yards and I’m good.”
And that’s what Myers has done.
“There’s no intimidation factor at all with me,” Myers said. “They look at us and think we’re just a bunch of small guys who can’t play. Then after the game they think something different.”
If this is Myers’ last high school game, he hopes it’s not his last game ever. He said he will try to play at a small college next year, but has yet to be contacted by any coaches.
“I want to keep playing,” Myers said. “I know I’m not a Division I player, but I’d like to play at a small college. I’ll just have to wait and see.”