Some days, the term running back must seem like a bit of a misnomer to Matt Spence and the other Capistrano Valley High School ballcarriers.
Blocking back would be more like it.
But Friday night, in the battle of quarterbacks Todd Marinovich and Bret Johnson, which also was referred to occasionally as the Capistrano Valley-El Toro game, Spence did far more than block.
By the time Capistrano Valley escaped with a 22-21 victory, Spence, a 6-foot, 200-pound senior, had carried 18 times for 169 yards and 2 touchdowns--a 77-yard breakaway in the second quarter that put the Cougars out to a 14-0 lead and the touchdown that put them ahead for good with 2:25 remaining.
"I had it in my mind to run over anyone," said Spence, who missed the first two games of the season with a torn calf muscle.
Seemed like he almost did.
Unlike some of the other Cougars, Spence's determination was not fueled by a search for revenge for last year's 17-15 loss to El Toro. Last year, he worried more about Servite. Like Marinovich, he transferred to Capistrano Valley from Mater Dei, only one year later.
"I'm a new person with this rivalry, but it's one of the best of them," Spence said.
Spence broke his 77-yard touchdown run on only his fifth carry of the game. It was a play up the middle that appeared to have been smothered by the El Toro defense, but a few seconds later Spence was headed down the left sideline, the closest defender five yards back and fading.
"One tackle came up and I spun off him and had 70 yards of open field," Spence said. "I loved it. It's a wonderful feeling to see that."
And a nice surprise after a lot of practices heavy on blocking and light on running.
"That's got to get the running backs upset," Spence said. "No one likes to block the whole game. We practiced a lot of passing plays, but the running ones we used worked."
Spence got most of his yardage by halftime--132 yards--but he kept adding to his total in the second half, most importantly with that final touchdown.
Spence's performance proved what Cougar Coach Dick Enright thought he saw was there--a chance to run.
"I'd hoped we could run the ball. I felt we could and we did. Marinovich said none of it was any surprise to him.
"I knew Matt could do that all along. I always had confidence in him."