It is no surprise that Derby is going to run the football a lot. The problem for opposing defenses is going to be how to stop it throughout 40 minutes of football. The ground game is primed to have a dominant year behind a massive offensive line and premium talent in the backfield.
The Panthers amassed 3,488 yards last season, which adds up to nearly two miles – the length of 35.2 football fields. At the top of the leaderboard was none other than junior running back Dylan Edwards. As a sophomore, Edwards blazed past the competition and finished with 1,833 yards and 25 rushing touchdowns.
It is evident that Edwards will be the top dog in the backfield for the Panthers this season, but don’t discredit the other pieces that could make an impact. The combo of Edwards and sophomore Derek Hubbard is going to frustrate defenses. In nine games as a freshman, Hubbard showed a lot of upside and rushed for 183 yards with three touchdowns in 35 carries.
“We are finding ways to get Edwards and Hubbard on the field at the same time because they are both going to be big contributors and playmakers for us,” running backs coach Todd Olmstead said. “We do want Edwards getting the ball a lot.”
The running back room is capped at about four backs because Derby is more of a one-back team, but there are plays that get both Edwards and Hubbard on the field at the same time.
“When we put Hubbard and Edwards in the backfield together, we can still run all of our stuff, but now the defense has to worry about which running back you are going to take away,” Olmstead said.
According to Olmstead, Edward’s dad (Leon) and Hubbard’s dad (Derek) both made impacts at their respective high schools in Wichita and were some of the best running backs in the area. Those genes, plus the skill both Dylan and Derek bring, make for a solid one-two punch.
“We have pedigree plus everything else, so it is pretty cool,” Olmstead said.
Edwards is entering his second year as the leader of the running back room, which has been an easy role for him to take.
“He is a great kid, so this is an easy role for him,” Olmstead said. “It has been the way that it has been with the running backs the last couple of years. The sophomore steps up and takes over and becomes my leader.”
Like most position groups at Derby, knowing the playbook before jumping into high school football creates a tremendous advantage for the Panther backfield.
“It is huge,” Olmstead said. “We can add so many new things. Not only with the running backs, but the offense overall. It is nice for me because we can get better at things we are not so good at because we understand what we are doing.”
Derby’s success has provided openings for underclassmen to get playing time at the varsity level, which creates confidence.
“We get in a position where we can take our starters out and we clear the bench, but that is what makes us so good,” Olmstead said. “Going into the next season, those kids have played a full season of games because they get in all the time. So you are never putting in an inexperienced kid.”
According to Olmstead, the biggest goal for the running backs is to finish the season and never fumble the football. The Panther running backs only fumbled twice in 2020.
“The only thing that we can do bad is fumble,” Olmstead said. “We spend a lot of time on that and pass blocking. Then, the rest of it, their natural ability just takes over.”
The backfield for Derby will be something special to watch this season and, with a dominant offensive line ahead of them, they will be able to run wild in the open field.