There have been system quarterbacks, but Midland Trail might have system running backs the way they have churned out yards on the ground over the last three seasons.
After Colton Yoder opened the season with back-to-back 200-yard rushing performances, the Patriots have a new weapon in the backfield in Robert Ruffner.
On the road Friday in a 48-36 win at Westside, Ruffner had 281 yards rushing, finding the end zone four times while also recovering a fumble in the red zone and returning it 86 yards to flip the game.
For his efforts, Ruffner has been named the Register-Herald Player of the Week, as decided by the sports writers.
Ruffner beat out finalists Caleb Bower of Wyoming East, Haven Chapman of Shady Spring, Atticus Goodson of Independence and Trent Meador of Summers County.
For most, the performance was surprising, as Ruffner entered the game with only 248 yards rushing and two touchdowns the entire season. When head coach Frank Isaacs knew the team would be without its usual running back in Yoder, the team prepped Ruffner for the lead back role heading into the game, and he answered.
"He's going to have to be one of our lead backs going forward," Isaacs said. "We knew Colton would be out for a couple weeks Friday after the Summers County game. We started prepping Robert to be the primary back. He had a big game, but he probably left about 150 yards on the field. He actually missed a couple holes, but he's really young."
Even Isaacs, who is high on Ruffner, didn't anticipate that kind of performance.
"I didn't expect 281 yards," Isaacs said. "Honestly, with all the injuries we've had, we had three starting offensive linemen out for the game, it'd be hard to pile up those yards. Really, he did all that behind our second- and third-stringers on the line. Right now I have a wide receiver and fullback playing on the line. But they all did a really good job."
Though Ruffner's offensive numbers were eye popping, his contributions weren't limited to that side of the ball. With Westside deep in the red zone, Ruffner came up with the defensive play of the game, an 86-yard fumble return to swing it in Trail's favor
"I think (Westside) was on the 2 and there was a bad snap," Isaacs said. "They were getting ready to go up another touchdown and were already up two points. We weren't stopping them. Robert did what he did, he ran full speed and just took off, scooping the fumble. He can scoot."
Going forward, Isaacs is measured in his expectations of Ruffner, noting that performances as such are typically rare, especially with the difficulty of the schedule increasing. But he likes what he has in the sophomore running back.
"The competition will get tougher, but if we can keep him healthy, he's tough as nails," Isaacs said. "He runs downhill and he's elusive. We have Griffith Boggs, too. It is a luxury, but it's a testament to our kids and what they do in the weight room."
Bower was the readers' choice with 65 percent of the vote.
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