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COLLEGE Digest

ATHLETE OF THE WEEK : Canyon's Sophomore Tailback Feasts on Steady Diet of Work

November 11, 1987|VINCE KOWALICK

In Coach Harry Welch's meat 'n' potatoes, I-formation offense at Canyon High, tailback Chris Peery is the meat. The offensive line is the potatoes.

"Our line is consistent," said Peery, whose bruising, straight-ahead running style has produced 1,131 yards and 18 touchdowns. "They go after one guy and after they're finished with him, they keep on blocking. They leave the rest up to me."

On a wet and slippery surface at Canyon on Friday night, Peery ran like he was starving for yardage. Carrying the ball a school-record 36 times, the sophomore tailback rambled for 235 yards--also a school record--as the Cowboys beat up Antelope Valley, 21-14. After the game, Peery insisted that he hadn't bitten off more than he could chew.

"I wouldn't mind getting the ball 50 times," Peery said. "I know the coach is going to give me the ball and I like it."

Not only does Peery have an appetite for running with the football, at 6-0, 200, he also can put away the groceries.

"I don't eat that much," Peery said, laughing. "Tonight I just had chicken, barbecued ribs, string beans and potatoes."

Last season, Peery was used as a linebacker until Welch saw the advantages of Peery stepping on defenders' face masks.

"There was a need to be fulfilled," Welch said simply.

Peery, unhappy at linebacker, was happy to fill that need.

"I'd rather play tailback," he said. "I'm better at hitting people. I feel like I'm the hitter and the defense is the hittee."

Against Antelope Valley, Peery hit the Antelopes hard. He had touchdown runs of 5, 59 and 14 yards as the Cowboys passed the ball only three times. Most of Peery's runs were straightaway blasts or quick pitches to the outside. With footing treacherous, Welch kept his game plan simple.

"He said before the game that if it was wet out there, we were going to run a lot," Peery said. "I didn't try to do any dancing. Every time I planted my foot, it sank and a whole bunch of grass would fly up.

"But I have moves. I really do."

Peery demonstrated a move on his 59-yard touchdown run late in the first half. On a fourth-and-two play, Peery scooted around right end and accelerated down the sideline untouched.

"We've been working with him and he's becoming more elusive," Welch said.

For the most part, however, Peery continued to pound straight ahead behind Canyon's strong offensive line.

"It's just hard-nosed football," Peery said. "We feel like we don't need any trick plays in the playbook."

The trick for Welch, it seems, is to keep Peery excited about football. Peery's enthusiasm for the team and sport waned after the Cowboys' 13-10 loss to Thousand Oaks in the third week of the season. Peery said he was tired of football and quit the team along with tailback Cam Cross.

But unlike Cross, Peery returned and is finally enjoying his role as Canyon's workhorse.

"I felt bad," Peery said. "I didn't want to be the one responsible for them not having a running back."

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