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Los Altos High's Boden Makes Running the Name of the Game : Football: The Conquerors, long known for their passing attack, have switched to the ground game on the heels of Roger Boden.

October 26, 1989|MITCH POLIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

For the Los Altos High football program, the route to offensive success over the years has passed through the air.

Confirmation of that can be found merely by glancing through the CIF Southern Section record book, which is blanketed by the names of former Los Altos quarterbacks Mike Smith, Dennis Sproul and Randy Hertel.

In the offensive scheme of the Conquerors, the running game has usually taken a back seat.

That is, until recently--since running back Roger Boden joined the varsity last season.

In two years, 17-year-old Boden has been among the rushing leaders in the San Gabriel Valley.

As a junior he rushed for 1,164 yards and seven touchdowns in 172 carries, and this season Boden is the second-leading rusher in the valley with 1,082 yards and six touchdowns in 149 carries.

Those numbers have brought about a noticeable adjustment in the Los Altos offensive philosophy.

"We've had great passing teams over the years, but we're not too dumb to realize that if we have the running backs we have to let them loose," longtime Los Altos Coach Dwayne DeSpain said.

While quarterbacks have generated most of the attention at Los Altos, DeSpain says the Conquerors have had talented running backs.

The coach has little doubt where Boden belongs on the list: "We've had some great backs over the years and he's as good as any of them."

At 5-11 and 170 pounds, Boden is not going to bowl over defenders. But Boden said he has flourished with 4.5-second speed in the 40-yard dash.

"I've always had the top speed in my class, but as a running back I rely more on my ability to shift balance, make slants and cuts and go across the grain," he said. "I can also see in the corner of my eye and know what to do."

Added DeSpain: "He's got good speed but the thing that makes him a good running back is the ability to make you miss him. He has great agility and great balance and follows his blockers well."

With Boden's increased success this season, and the team's greater emphasis on the run, the coach said the running back has been receiving considerably more attention from defenses.

"He's more of a target now," DeSpain says. "You can see that they really go after him."

Boden credits the experienced offensive line with a major role in his success: "I have faith in my linemen, that they're going to do the job. If they do their job and make the holes for me, I'm confident about doing my job.

"I feel this year's offensive line is better than last year's. We're more of a team, playing better together. So I've been able to get more yardage."

Boden also thinks he has developed: "I feel a little more confident this season because I've been here for a year, so I know what to expect. I think I've kind of learned what to do and what not to do."

In particular, Boden said, he is more instinctive than as a junior.

"I don't really think about what I do out there," he said. "I just react. Last year I'd get the ball and stutter-step a little and think of what to do, and by then I'd get tackled."

Boden says he is comfortable with the team's increased emphasis on running, although he adds that the pass is still a key element in the offense.

"I still think we have a lot more passing plays than running plays, but we're trying to balance it," he said. "I think the running is starting to catch up with the passing."

Fortunately for Boden, he is equally at ease as a pass receiver. As a junior he caught 15 passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns and he has 14 receptions for 95 yards and one touchdown this season.

"Running with the football and catching the football are my two favorite things, so I feel comfortable in either situation," he said.

That is one reason why DeSpain thinks Boden has the ability to succeed in college at the Division I level.

"He's got soft hands and I don't think his size will affect him," he said. "I look at him as a can't-miss player for somebody."

While college recruiters haven't knocked down his door, Boden said he has heard from a handful of schools.

"I've gotten about 15 or so letters," he says. "They just write letters and wish me good luck."

He said at this point in the season he isn't overly concerned about letters.

"It's flattering to get letters from colleges but it doesn't really matter much until after the season is over," Boden said. "That's when you really see how much they're interested."

From his perspective, as well as DeSpain's, Boden has played well enough to earn an NCAA Division I football scholarship.

"I feel like I'm doing what I want to do," Boden said. "I want the scouts to see a good product, and if they see my game film I think they'll be impressed."

Academically, Boden certainly fits the Division I mold as a solid B student.

"I'm hoping to go on to a Division I school," he said. "My first priority is to go to college and get an education because of my ability in football, but if I'm not lucky enough for that to happen I'll just go to school and get my education."

For the moment, Boden has a more pressing concern: He has his sights set on his team's next opponent, Wilson, on Friday night at Wilson. It was the Wildcats who handed Los Altos its only defeat (7-0) on the way to a 13-1 season and the CIF Division IV championship last year, and the Conquerors are 7-0 and ranked No. 1 in Division IV again this season.

"We've been waiting for this since they beat us last year," Boden said. "Last year we didn't really come to play. This time we're going to be ready."

Boden, at least, knows that he will be ready to handle the football frequently.

That's because with Boden in the lineup, the Conquerors no longer consider their running game as just a passing fancy.

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