South senior Dante Williams feels stronger and faster than ever, so it didn't come as a shock that he produced a career-best offensive performance last weekend against East.
Williams' 187 yards on 11 carries was the highest rushing total for any Cook Inlet Conference runner two weeks into the high school football season. The gaudy total made up more than half the team's 315 rushing yards, helped the Wolverines improve to 2-0 in the CIC with a 41-0 win and made Williams the leading rusher in the CIC.
"I was disappointed, cause I thought I was gonna have at least 200 yards," Williams said.
Williams, 18, fully understands his success is a product of great team play. Motivated by a runner-up finish in last season's large-school state playoffs, the Wolverines are hitting harder than ever and playing inspired football, Williams said. As a result, the Wolverines have outscored their first two opponents 109-6.
"I didn't expect us to start out that well, but I expected us to start well," Williams said. "I am surprised we are putting up the numbers we are."
Williams started his varsity football career as a sophomore cornerback in 2010. The young Williams learned some valuable lessons that season, South coach John Lewis said, slipping in his coverage on some critical plays in critical games. One thing that impressed Lewis about Williams was the way he rebounded from his failures to become an all-state cornerback last season.
Williams, listed at 5-foot-9 and 175 pounds, has made the move to outside linebacker this season, also known as the "dog" position to South players. He likes delivering heavy hits, and the new role has helped Williams expand his football knowledge.
But racking yards on offense is still his favorite task.
Williams got a taste of what it was like to play running back last season, finishing with 185 yards on 28 carries. He even took a few snaps at quarterback. Playing a vital defensive role and still having enough energy to carry a load on offense is not easy, so Williams dedicated himself to conditioning in the offseason. The training paid off in last weekend's win. Lewis said there were times he left Williams in a little longer than he should have, but Williams responded well.
"The old Dante woulda been gassed and collapsed," Lewis said. "The new Dante was still aggressive. That's the difference, he didn't have that before."
Another key to Williams' big game was a newfound understanding about how successful football works. There was a time when Williams lacked the patience to follow a blocker, Lewis said, venturing out and taking on defenders by himself. Last weekend, Williams made the most of each carry and trusted his teammates fully.
"Maturity-wise, that kid has made a 180-degree turn," Lewis said. "He doesn't do all the hoopla he used to do as a kid. He's gotten serious."
The entire South team has gotten serious, in large part because of last season's loss to Service in the state title game. Williams, who set aside all personal goals this season to turn all his attention to being a good teammate, said there was plenty of joking around during last season's practices. This time around, the Wolverines are all business.
"The main goal is to get a ring this year," Williams said.
Reach Jeremy Peters at email@example.com or 257-4335.
By JEREMY PETERS
Anchorage Daily News