Howard Tsunamura, The Province Sept 19, 2012
ABBOTSFORD — We’ll let the official statisticians sort it all out, but no matter how you slice it, Maleek Irons has started the 2012 B.C. high school football season on a pace that has him chugging alongside the greatest rushers in provincial history.
“I have 14 touchdowns, that is correct,” the Grade 11 tailback with Abbotsford’s Triple A No. 2-ranked W.J. Mouat Hawks (3-0) said over the phone Tuesday as he headed to a noon film session. “I’m ecstatic right now, because my goal is to be the leading rusher in the league.” (See post-deadline information below)
His head coach, Denis Kelly, has Irons at 13 majors, and the Mouat stats at bchighschoolfootball.com have him at 10 touchdowns (and 763 yards rushing) after just three games, with another coming via a punt return.
Yet if you conservatively credit Irons with 10 TDs and have him continuing at his current pace, no easy task with No. 3-ranked Vancouver College (3-0) coming to town on Friday (7:30 p.m.), he would finish with 2,543 yards rushing and 33 touchdowns over Mouat’s 10-game regular season schedule.
In 2009, current Simon Fraser running back Stephen Spagnuolo, then a senior at Vancouver’s Notre Dame Secondary, rushed for 2,537 yards and 32 touchdowns in 10 games, a slate that included one playoff game. Spagnuolo’s rushing total is the second highest in B.C. history behind Coquitlam-Centennial’s Reg Bradshaw, who in 2001 rushed for 3,173 yards in 11 games, two of which came in the playoffs.
The most impressive things here? Irons is a year younger than all of his predecessors.
“It’s been a bunch of things,” Mouat head coach Denis Kelly explains when asked if Irons will continue to get an average of 17 carries per game behind a veteran offensive line which is the strength of the team, “one of which has been that our passing game is just starting to come around and we have been without our best wide receiver (Brandon Barratt) all season.
“Although if he keeps doing what he’s been doing, we’d be remiss to not keep giving him the ball.”
By this point, there is a kind of incredulous tone in Kelly’s voice. After all, the veteran coach has seen it all in a program that has consistently produced game-breaking backs since 2008 with the likes of Boseko Lokombo (Oregon), Allan Dicks (McMaster) and Devin Logan (Saskatchewan) all carrying the mail.
Yes, Kelly will admit, he knew Irons was good. After all, he brought him to the senior varsity last season as a 10th grader and started him in a rotation at fullback behind Logan.
That said, all Kelly can do is give props to a kid who dedicated himself to the entire bigger, faster, stronger mantra with a challenging off-season conditioning program.
So what has surprised him the most about 5-foot-11, 205-pound Irons?
“Just how hard he runs,” said Kelly. “We had Devin Logan the last two years, and he had great speed and he avoided guys with quickness. Maleek has good feet and speed, but he’s also a power runner. When he gets a head of steam up, people just bounce off him.”
And like Dicks and Lokombo before him, his college position may well come on the other side of the ball.
“The most surprising thing to me is how good a defensive back he is,” says Kelly of Irons’ work at one of the team’s corner spots. “That might be his position at the next level because he is an outstanding cover corner and open-field tackler. You won’t make much yardage on his side of the field.”
Irons’ red-shot start is just another challenge for an Irish team looking for a second straight statement win following its victory over No. 4 St. Thomas More last Saturday.
In 2011, Mouat handed the Irish a 42-14 spanking on the road at O’Hagan Field to start October, and then in mid-November, escaped with a 14-13 win in the Subway Bowl semifinals after a missed extra point by Vancouver College wound up costing Irish a chance to win the game. Mouat lost the next weekend to Mt. Douglas in the B.C. final.
“I assume that it will be a big motivator for them,” said Kelly of the Irish. “Very seldom do they get beat twice in a season by the same team. We were pretty fortunate to get two wins.”
No. 1 Mt. Douglas is idle this week. St. Thomas More meets Notre Dame at Burnaby Lake, while No. 5 Terry Fox plays at West Vancouver is other highlighted Triple A contests Friday.
NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH
Mouat stats man Wally Fung confirmed Irons’ stats late Wednesday after Thursday print editions had already gone to press. He indeed has scored 14 touchdowns this season:
*Vs. Elmira Oregon 134 yds /15 carries 4 tds. Longest carry was 36 yds, longest kickoff return 34 yds
*Vs. Bateman 334 yds /13 carries 5 tds. Longest carry was 66 yds, longest kickoff return 60 yds
*Vs Mission 305 yds / 21 carries 5 tds. Longest carry was 78 yds, longest kickoff return 55 yds