For the Pope running game, those tools are Ronald Woods and Itabari Mason.
Woods, a senior, and Mason, a sophomore, combine to form one of top running back combinations in the county this season.
“They complement each other,” said Pope coach Matt Kemper. “They are similar sized and similar speed and things, but they kind of run a bit differently.”
Woods is more patient and takes good care of the football. Mason makes more cuts and can break away from defenders.
“They give us a little bit of a 1-2 punch,” said Kemper. “They are different enough that they hopefully create some problems for the defense.”
Both players stepped into their roles this season and have stepped up when they were called upon by Pope (5-2, 2-0) in its spotless start to Regioin 7AAAAA(B) play.
Woods has tallied 679 yards rushing and seven touchdowns. Mason averages 8.4 yards per carry and has 506 yards and six touchdowns.
One trait that the players share is that they have been life-long running backs, taking up the position during youth football. According to Kemper, each fills the spot well.
“They are natural running backs,” he said.
Woods and Mason will test their skills alongside the other Greyhounds tonight at Riverwood, but it might be the Pope defense that has the greatest challenge ahead.
The Raiders operate an option offense similar to Georgia Tech or Georgia Southern, which has brought them considerable success. Riverwood (6-2, 1-2) opened the season with a five-game winning streak before stumbling against Kell and Sprayberry in region play.
“Their quarterback is a good player,” Kemper said. “Both their wing backs can score from anywhere. They’ve got a big receiver that they can throw the ball up to and he just goes up and gets it. They play hard. They are a heck of a team to get ready for.”
Riverwood is also playing with confidence. Off to its best start in more than 20 years, the team has already secured its first winning record since 2001.
Like most teams, the Raiders win when they take care of the ball. Both of their losses came when the Longhorns and Yellow Jackets were able to capitalize on turnovers.
“We’ve just got to go out there and take care of the football and try to limit their big plays,” said Kemper. “It’s a huge game in the region standings.”
With a showdown with Kell looming next week for a potential subregion championship, the knowledge of securing no worse than a No. 2 seed for the Week 10 region play-in game is important for the Greyhounds’ confidence.
“Getting that No. 2 seed won’t make you relax, but it will let you sleep a little easier going into that Week 10,” Kemper said.