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INDIAN ROCKS — Zeke McGaughy lined up in the backfield for Indian Rocks Christian’s season opener against Calvary Christian and felt the butterflies in his stomach.
It was his first official start in a varsity game, and the 5-foot-9, 160-pound freshman wondered if he could play against the upperclassmen on the other side.
“I was very nervous,” McGaughy said. “I knew the level would be very different from junior high.”
As an eighth-grader, McGaughy got a brief taste of varsity after he completed his junior high school season. He played a few snaps in the final two games.
This year he’s on the varsity full time and has proven he belongs.
Through seven games, McGaughy has 85 carries for 745 yards and seven touchdowns, including an 80-yarder. He averages 106.4 yards per game. The Golden Eagles were supposed to be rebuilding after the loss of tight end Sean Culkin, but instead they are 6-1 and winners of six straight.
While McGaughy has been the main scoring threat, he isn’t alone. Sophomore Damian King has 300 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Freshman Theo Anderson has chipped in 248 yards and three touchdowns.
And senior quarterback Matt Kulaga has been consistent, with nine touchdown passes and three interceptions.
The running back trio has combined for 1,293 of the Golden Eagles’ 1,683 yards of total offense. The future certainly looks bright for Indian Rocks.
“Our goal was to get them a lot of experience, but I didn’t think they would be at this level,” coach Mark Buchanan said. “They’ve played very well. Can you imagine how good they’ll be in a couple of years?”
IRC can make a big statement this afternoon against Class 2A, District 5 rival Carrollwood Day. Having already beaten Admiral Farragut, the Eagles can clinch a playoff spot with a win. A loss would drop them a game behind CDS and likely AFA.
“I’m a little surprised at how we’re playing,” Buchanan said. “We’re a very young team. I knew we’d be good, but I’m pleasantly surprised we’re playing this well.”
Like they have done during their six-game win streak, the Golden Eagles will rely on defense and the power running of McGaughy against Carrollwood Day. Though he is not the biggest player on the field, he plays as if he is.
“He doesn’t juke or anything,” Buchanan said. “He gets straight through the hole and tries to get what he can get.”
McGaughy said he has a simple philosophy when playing against the upperclassmen.
“I’ve just got to hit them first before they hit me,” he said. “I don’t mind being physical. That’s how I play.”
Rodney Page can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.