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They Like Ike : Speed and Tenacity Help Jefferson High Running Back Stretch His Limits

August 28, 1994|CHARLES SMITH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

With a nickname like Ike, Jefferson High running back Isaac Hatley seems destined to be in the public eye.

And with his speed, quickness and durability, Hatley is expected to remain in the spotlight.

"Ike is a very tough, slashing-type runner with extreme quickness," said Ken Johnson, former assistant coach at Jefferson.

"Pound-for-pound, he is one of the toughest kids I have been associated with at Jefferson."

When you are 5-foot-8, 160 pounds, tenacity is necessary.

"People try to take advantage of you when you are little, so you have to be tough," Hatley said.

"But good things come in small packages."

Jefferson Coach Hank Johnson must have thought it was Christmas two years ago when Hatley tried out for the varsity team as a sophomore.

Hatley made a name for himself in just his second game, rushing 31 times for 114 yards and three touchdowns in a 33-14 win over Roosevelt.

Two weeks later, Jefferson manhandled Jordan, 44-6, and Hatley rushed for 141 yards and three touchdowns in only 10 carries.

Hatley finished the '92 season with 895 yards and 12 touchdowns in 134 carries.

This Ike, unlike former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, needed no politicking to support his agenda. Everyone was already on his bandwagon.

"We knew we had something special in Ike, and everyone followed his lead," Hank Johnson said.

"He impressed everyone from the beginning and continues to do so until this day."

Given his success as a small back, Ike may be swaying public opinion about bigger backs.

"I have no problems with being a shorter back because I'm quicker, and linebackers don't have a big target to hit," Hatley said.

Surprisingly, Hatley's rushing statistics as a junior declined from his sophomore season.

He had fewer carries (116), fewer rushing yards (744) and fewer rushing touchdowns (four).

However, Ike's low numbers were more a result of his teammates' development than him having a bad year.

Quarterback Anthony Martin had among the best seasons of area passers. Martin completed 64 of 153 pass attempts for 1,096 yards and 15 touchdowns and rushed for 491 yards and five touchdowns.

"Last season, we had good play from the skill positions and we were better overall than 1992," Hank Johnson said. "Ike doesn't have to have big numbers to make an impact. His attitude and spirit on the field make his teammates play harder."

Hatley agrees that his role involves more than just running with the football.

"I am one of the team leaders, so my teammates look to me for support and encouragement," Hatley said.

Don't expect Hatley's numbers to take another dip this season. With sophomore Ray Brown starting at quarterback, Hatley will have to shoulder a much heavier offensive load.

The task of shutting down Hatley will keep many of the area's defensive coordinators awake Thursday nights.

Hatley relishes that fact: "It makes me feel good to know other people will be working to stop me. It motivates me to work harder."

Jefferson plans to put a wrinkle--a rather large one--into its offense this season by also using 6-foot-3, 245-pound defensive tackle Eboni Wilson at fullback.

A scary prospect considering Wilson's size and Hatley's speed.

"Eboni will be a great blocker for Ike," Ken Johnson said. "All Ike needs is a hole, and Wilson should be able to make a few in the defense."

This may well be the season that Hatley breaks the 1,000-yard plateau and runs away with countless football honors.

Ike and the Democrats are primed for a successful 1994 campaign.

"The team looks really good and I feel good," Ike said, "I'm expecting big things this season."

*

Here is a look at some of the area's other top backs--offensive and defensive:

Sirr Parker, Locke--The Central City's Ultimate Weapon, Parker is Locke's fastest player and one of the area's quickest too. The 6-0, 185-pound tailback rushed for 1,088 yards and scored 11 touchdowns in 126 carries to make the City Times second team last year. He also caught 22 passes for 453 yards and two touchdowns. Parker was fifth in area scoring with 88 points, sixth in rushing and eighth in receiving.

Omar Garnett and Travis Jackson, Cathedral--The second-best backfield last season next to Dorsey's Che Johnson and Chris Phillips. The rushing tandem combined for 1,925 yards and 21 touchdowns. Garnett carried the ball 127 times for 964 yards and 11 touchdowns. Jackson had 127 carries for 961 yards and 10 touchdowns. Garnett was 10th among local scorers with 66 points; Jackson was 11th with 60.

Farrel Payton, Crenshaw--Payton is a bruising, power runner with breakaway speed. The 6-2, 200-pound Payton rushed 86 times for 577 yards and seven touchdowns. Look for those numbers to increase this season.

Brian Beckum, Manual Arts--Beckum took a back seat to Dartanyum Smith last season, but this year he will be the No. 1 ballcarrier. At 5-6, 190 pounds, Beckum is strong and compact, which makes him difficult to bring down. Beckum rushed for only 364 yards and four touchdowns, but he had an impressive 5.2 yards per carry.

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