The power of one offseason conversation could have changed the fortunes of the 2016 Justin Northwest football team’s offense.
An anemic running game needed a big boost. Head coach Bill Poe had a promising starting quarterback in Prince Mavula. The wide receiver core was pretty deep, starting with Gavin Holmes. The offensive line had the right pieces, led by Darrell Simpson.
But for this attack to be balanced and evolve into a defensive coordinator’s headache, something had to change at running back. Poe approached Syrus Moore (5-9, 172) about making the switch from receiver to the backfield.
“To be honest, I was really excited about doing it and looking forward to it,” Moore said. “I told them in other years I could run the ball and if they needed me to do something, I could move from the slot to running back. So I was ready.”
It looks as if the plan has gone better than expected. With Moore lining up behind Mavula, the Texans (3-0) have erupted. Northwest opens District 6-5A play at 7:30 p.m. Friday against its new district rival, V.R. Eaton, at Northwest ISD Stadium.
The Texans are averaging 456 yards per game. Moore is accounting for more than one third of it. The transition has been nearly seamless for someone who has been a starter since he was a sophomore.
“When you do something like this, by moving a receiver to running back, you just don’t know because it’s such a physical change,” Poe said. “It’s a pounding. And you don’t know how they are going to handle it.
“But Syrus has filled such a huge void. He’s one of our smartest players. He’s also one of our strongest. His smarts and vision made it perfect for him to switch.”
Northwest’s 2015 running game didn’t provide any solutions. No Northwest running back rushed for more than 168 yards. That contributes to a team going 1-9 and looking for a lot of answers.
“Our offensive line wasn’t as efficient, and we couldn’t dictate to the other team what we wanted to do,” Poe said.
Moore’s switch not only augmented what this offense did, it also created a two-pronged system where this team didn’t have to rely on just the passing game. With Moore, he’s already rushed for 408 yards. Because of his size, Moore can slip behind his line, get lost in the crowd and break out for a big run. But there’s enough power for him to pick up 3rd-and-1.
With his receiving prowess, he becomes a threat to catch it out of the backfield. This offense can still line him up at the slot should the situation call for it. The line has been better. And it didn’t hurt that Northwest moved from Class 6A to 5A in realignment. No longer is the school one of the smaller ones in 6A. It’s one of the largest in 5A.
“I really didn’t expect to get off to this kind of start,” Moore said. “But I wouldn’t be here without my bodyguards (Moore’s nickname for his offensive line). I’m just following them to victory.”