When Daniel lost two running backs to injury in its opener with Easley last year, coach Randy Robinson asked Jae'lon Oglesby if he could carry the load. A sophomore then, Oglesby said he'd carry the ball every single play if he had to.
Fast forward more than a year and Robinson hasn't stopped giving it to the all-state caliber back.
Oglesby has established himself as the Lions' workhorse while Belton-Honea Path is having similar success with Korey Thompson. Meanwhile, Pendleton and Crescent made it to the second round of the Class 2A state playoffs with a back-by-committee approach to their running games. There is a constant debate among coaches at every level as to which strategy is the most beneficial. At the high school level, it all boils down to the talent available.
While Daniel is a hot bed for prep talent, Robinson has readily admitted he hasn't seen anything quite like Oglesby. The junior Clemson commit has top speed, great cut-back ability and, of course, tremendous endurance.
"He's shown he'll carry it 30, 35, 40 times and be just as dangerous on the 40th carry as he was on the first one," Robinson said last season when Oglesby rushed 221 times for 1,734 yards, carrying Daniel into the third round of the postseason.
Heading into tonight's second-round 3A playoff matchup with Blue Ridge Oglesby has already eclipsed that mark with 233 carries for the Lions (9-2). He has 2,115 yards and is up from 7.7 yards a carry last season to 8.8 this season.
For those of the opinion that Robinson is running his back, who has a bright future, into the ground, the Daniel staff closely monitors Oglesby. And, junior Jared Dillingham has been a perfect change of pace back to spell him.
B-HP (8-3), which travels to No. 8 A.C. Flora (10-1) tonight, takes it a step further with Thompson. For every two series the senior is on the field, junior Anthony White receives a series.
But, when it comes down to it, Thompson spearheads the Bears' power-running game just as workhorse backs like Charles Lindsey have done in the past under former coach Wayne Green and third-year coach Russell Blackston.
Thompson moved into the top-7 on B-HP's career rushing list when he surpassed the 1,500-yard mark this season with 272 yards and four touchdowns in a 63-56 win over Woodruff last week.
"He's just a straight ahead, old-fashioned runner," Blackston said. "If he can carry the load, we're going to give it to him every snap."
Pendleton coach Paul Sutherland almost prefers it that way.
"With great running backs, it's always been my experience that they get better the more they carry it. They get the flow of the game, they get the feel of the game," Sutherland said. "It gives you an identity."
Last season he had that exact situation. Cam Blackburn put Pendleton's offense on his back with 231 carries and 1,604 yards en route to a Region 1-2A championship.
"You'd like to give your tailback half of the carries, a quarter to the fullback and a quarter to what we call the Z-back. Ideally you'd like to throw it a third of the time if you can work that in," Sutherland said. "But you have to go with what you got."
This year, Blackburn has been plagued by injuries, and Pendleton (8-3) lost some of its backfield depth to disciplinary issues, forcing Sutherland to spread the wealth.
Going into tonight's second-round game with Cheraw (6-4), junior Darius Barksdale leads the team in rushing with 881 yards followed by Blackburn (847) and fullback Christian Gossett (640). Three other players have over 200 yards.
Sutherland is convinced the deviation of the allocation of carries from past years has boosted the Bulldogs' morale to the point where they are playing above their heads during an injury-filled season.
Crescent has taken the by-committee approach to a different level under second-year coach Jeff Murdock. As an assistant and head coach at Ware Shoals, Murdock turned the double-wing rushing attack into an art. Coaches from all over the state made the trip to Greenwood County to take notes.
This season Murdock has installed some of the same principles of the double-wing with a bit of the option. During Crescent's best season in 15 years, he has spread the wealth between five different players. Up until last week's win over Pelion, quarterback Dalston Davis and running backs B.J. Yeargin, Ray Artybridge, Anthony Adger and Josh House were very close to even in the number of carries they received.
"Plenty of good things come from multiple guys getting the ball," said Murdock, whose 8-3 team travels to No. 9 Fairfield Central (8-2) tonight. "It starts to create a lot of depth, your guys aren't as injury prone and it allows you to have some fresh legs later in the game."
The trick is getting each player carries at the right times.
"It's just by the tempo of the game," Murdock said. "We've got some kids that are going both ways and you have to judge what kind of offense you're going against — if they're hurrying up or huddling up. You really have to judge by how you're looking. What's their body language telling you?"
A lot of times Murdock and his staff determine who has the hot hand by what the defense gives them in terms of alignment. With all the different looks he expects Fairfield Central to give Crescent up front, he's glad he has plenty of backs from which to choose.