CLEARWATER — The past two seasons, Alton Taylor has played more positions than most high school players would consider in their careers.
From catching passes to taking handoffs to returning kicks, Taylor is the ever-evolving man on Countryside's roster.
The senior also is a one-man microcosm of the balance the Cougars hoped to have on offense, with Jimbo Chmelik at quarterback and receivers such as Todd Shorter.
But coach John Davis wanted to give Taylor a more permanent role and figured the diminutive (5-9, 185 pounds) athlete was just the guy to give the running game a spark.
Taylor has flourished as the featured ball carrier, rushing for 660 yards and 15 touchdowns through four games.
That's not a misprint.
"I thought I had a chance to do pretty well," Taylor said. "But I never thought I'd get off to that kind of start, especially scoring touchdowns."
Taylor leads the county and bay area in scoring and needs just five more touchdowns to tie the single-season school record.
"Alton is willing to play any role," Davis said. "But he has really done well in this one."
Last year, Taylor was a situational back and carried the ball just 27 times. But Davis saw enough; he wanted to use Taylor more to offset the loss of the graduated Dawrence Roberts.
Taylor, a smallish, third-down specialist, is proving he can be an every-down, inside-running, big-play back.
"Alton has always been a pretty good running back, even in junior varsity," Davis said. "But we already had a pretty good guy here with Dawrence, who was a 1,000-yard rusher."
Countryside saw glimpses of what Taylor could do in the spring and preseason games, where he accounted for more than 350 rushing yards and scored six touchdowns combined.
In the regular season, the Cougars (4-0) have continued to turn Taylor loose, asking him to run inside as much as outside through four quarters. Taylor has delivered by being physical and determined.
His power resides in his lower body and legs. A strong base helps Taylor generate power and swivel into position to avoid, absorb or dispense hits.
It also helps to have an offensive line that is a mixture of experience, mobility, intelligence and toughness.
"The offensive line is a big key," Taylor said. "They open up a lot of things for me."
Taylor's fast start might soon slow down. Countryside starts the meat of its schedule tonight against Lakewood. And Davis wants to get backup Brenton Conley, who has 314 yards and three touchdowns, more involved in the offense.
"I'm not a guy who is going to feed a guy the ball just to get some records," Davis said. "Those are nice, but the biggest thing is winning games."
Bob Putnam can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org