Yet, through four games this year, the Buccaneers’ running game has included not only the senior Herron, but little-known sophomore Josh Bautista.
The tandem has combined to rush for 770 yards and 15 touchdowns for undefeated and seventh-ranked Allatoona, which hosts South Paulding in a Region 5AAAAA game at Buccaneer Stadium tonight.
The contest is the first of four consecutive home games for Allatoona (4-0,
4-0), which is 0-2 all-time against the Spartans (2-1,
2-1). South Paulding could also present Allatoona with it’s biggest problems to date.
“South Paulding will probably be our toughest test so far,” Allatoona coach Gary Varner said. “They have some solid guys up front on both sides of the ball, and they have a defensive tackle who is a college recruit. That will be an issue along with seeing how we handle their power run game, which is the primary thing for them.
“They’re a physical team on film. It will be an interesting match for us to see what our linemen are like against their backs. In a lot of ways, they’re similar to us in that they run downhill.”
Herron and Beautista represent Allatoona’s downhill attack. The projected starter at running back, Herron got hurt early in the preseason and was used lightly early on to give himself time to recover. In his absence, Beautista developed in the offseason into a solid alternative in the backfield for Herron and has continued to thrive in the position.
“Josh was in our program last year as a freshman playing on our junior varsity,” Varner said. “He worked hard, and when T.J. got hurt, (Beautista’s) repetitions increased. He turned out to be a good compliment to T.J. as part of our running game.”
Like many different running back tandems throughout the professional and college levels, Herron and Beautista bring a different dynamic to the Buccaneers’ running game, which has made each of them so successful.
Beautista, who is 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, has 38 carries for 412 yards — an average of 10.84 yards per carry — for five touchdowns, while Herron, at
5-10 and 210 pounds, has 61 rushes for 358 yards — a 5.87 average — for 10 touchdowns.
“They’re a little bit like ‘Thunder and Lightning,’” said Varner, comparing the duo to the New York Giants’ tandem of Ron Dayne and Tiki Barber during the 2000 season or Clemson’s C.J. Spiller and James Davis backfield of 2007. “T.J. is definitely a downhill force who’s difficult to tackle. He’s our starter and carries the load for us.
“Josh uses his speed and agility very effectively. He’s like our change-of-pace back, and between the two of them, they’re a good combination.”
As Herron’s health has improved since his preseason injury, he’s been used more and more in the backfield, but Beautista has proven so far that he’s ready to take over whenever it’s necessary.
“Our use of Josh right now depends on how the game is going,” Varner said. “Usually, we like to use Josh to spell T.J. on certain plays to give him some rest, and as T.J. gets healthier, we may use him a little more.
“But Josh has definitely earned the right to be given more carries, so we’ll balance all that out as the season progresses.”