High School Football

Varsity Extra: Running backs chasing milestone

The Treasure Valley has not seen a running back as dynamic and durable as Drew Wright since he walked off the field in November 2007 after a 5A state quarterfinal loss to Capital.

Over the course of nine regular-season games his senior year at Vallivue High in Caldwell, Wright ran for 2,305 yards and 22 touchdowns — an average of 256.1 yards per game.

“Unstoppable,” Boise coach Bob Clark said of Wright at the time. “Over 2,000 yards speaks for itself.”

No player in the Valley has been able to duplicate — or even come close — to what the 5-foot-11, 180-pounder accomplished during the 2007 season.

In the seven years since, no player has eclipsed the 2,000-yard rushing mark during the nine-game regular season in the 5A Southern Idaho Conference or 4A SIC.

“You’re going to have to get in some kind of I-back and have a kid that can endure the beating for 30 to 40 carries a game, and Drew Wright was a special kid,” Vallivue coach Layne Coffin said. “The next kid who does that, it’ll be pretty awesome. You’ve got to be flat out dedicated to running the ball, but football’s changing.”

Wright averaged just over 30 carries per game as a senior and was voted to the All-Idaho first team. He walked on at Boise State and played in 35 games from 2008 through 2012. Wright was awarded a scholarship in spring 2012.

Since 2007, only four Idaho players among 71 earning FBS or FCS football scholarships have been running backs, according to Scout.com.

“Coaches are becoming a little more creative. They are trying to find more ways to attack a defense. They are trying to find more creative ways to get more kids involved,” Skyview coach David Young said. “This day and age, it doesn’t seem like there’s as many big, beefy guys out there.”

While the 2,000-yard mark continues to elude area running backs, there are two seniors with returning All-Idaho first-team honors eager to follow in Wright’s footsteps — Rocky Mountain’s Jake Roper and Skyview’s Cody Ghighina.

5A SIC: ROCKY MOUNTAIN’S JAKE ROPER

At 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, Roper wouldn’t make a particularly intimidating offensive lineman, but that’s where he got his start in football.

It wasn’t until the eighth grade that coaches decided Roper was better suited with a football in his hands, and he has been taking advantage of the opportunity ever since.

Roper will be a three-year starter for the Grizzlies this fall. Despite sharing time in the backfield, Roper rushed for 1,392 yards last season — just 96 yards shy of the school record — helping Rocky Mountain advance to the 5A state semifinals. He finished the season with 1,589 yards of total offense.

Rocky Mountain coach Scott Criner expects Roper will have an even bigger impact in 2015.

“Our goal is to feed him the football,” Criner said.

Roper has some goals of his own. He already has a scholarship offer from Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, an FCS school. Montana, Idaho State, Eastern Washington, Idaho, Portland State and Boise State are watching him with interest, Criner said.

“I definitely want to play in college,” Roper said. “I think that’s every high school football player’s dream.”

He’d also like to see Rocky Mountain make it past the state semifinals for the first time in program history. The Grizzlies have lost in the semifinals the past two seasons.

“There’s definitely always something hanging over our heads that we want to do better than we did last year, and sadly we came up short,” Roper said. “But that being said, this year we have 18 returning starters who are all seniors. That will help a lot.”

When it comes to winning state or going for record yards, Roper is a team player.

“I’d would rather have zero yards and win state than have 2,000 yards and come up short,” he said.

4A SIC: SKYVIEW’S CODY GHIGHINA

With a father who played college soccer and later coached varsity boys programs at Nampa and Vallivue, Ghighina was supposed to be a soccer player.

“I’ve played soccer since I was 3 years old,” Ghighina said.

But in the eighth grade, a friend of Ghighina’s suggested he try playing football.

“I was really iffy about it,” Ghighina said. “But I ended up going out, and I had no clue what was going on. I actually played nose guard, because I wasn’t really good at running back. There were all these plays, and I didn’t know them.”

As a natural athlete, it didn’t take Ghighina long to find his way on the football field.

In ninth grade, Ghighina broke his father’s heart and chose football over soccer.

It turned out to be a good decision.

As a junior, Ghighina (5-10, 200) rushed for 1,596 yards and 17 touchdowns on 226 carries as the Hawks advanced to the state playoffs. He was voted to the 4A All-Idaho first team.

He has a scholarship offer from the College of Idaho, and interest from Idaho State, Weber State, Montana and Idaho, Skyview coach David Young said.

While a Skyview quarterback has surpassed 2,000 passing yards each of the past six seasons, Matt Kaiserman’s 1,782 rushing yards in 2006 remain a school record.

“There’s no way in the world he can do it by himself,” Young said. “Cody and I have had some conversations, and he does have some personal goals, but he knows that none of those personal goals will happen without his teammates.

“He’s got to have those five offensive linemen. He’s got to have that fullback-type kid, even the receiver stock blocking on the edge. Really, if our running back is able to rush for 2,000 yards, it means everybody around him worked their tail off just as hard — if not harder — to help him accomplish that goal.”

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