Knights' Finney Restoring Pride
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Nov 1, 2013, 07:27
CHESTER — Thomas Dale’s offensive line walks up to the line of scrimmage, readying themselves for the battle about to ensue. Behind them is a player ready to make a difference with each carry he has, giving the Knights an advantage many teams do not possess.
Yet, it’s an advantage the Knights’ program has held for numerous years. As frequently as Hershey’s chocolate factory produces chocolate, the Thomas Dale program produces running backs.
However, Knights’ head coach Kevin Tucker says there is no clear-cut reason as to why the program continues to breed tailbacks, but there’s a number of areas which deserve some credit.
“It’s just one of those things where we seem like we are blessed year in and year out,” Tucker said of his running back situation. “If one guy goes down, it seems like we have another one ready to step in. A lot of that credit has to go to that offensive line. Those guys stay motivated.”
But it’s easy to stay motivated when the person behind you is capable of taking over the game with his sheer speed and power.
That player is junior Eric Finney.
Thomas Dale utilized the running of D.J. Reid last year — now a running back and slot receiver at Virginia Tech — leaving a major hole in the backfield. However, Finney has not just filled the vacancy, but has made it his own.
The junior has been the constant source of offense for a Thomas Dale squad which lost its starting quarterback to a concussion earlier this season, making it all the more important to produce.
Produce he has to a tune of 968 rushing yards on just 145 carries to go along with 16 touchdowns. Tucker said it’s his ability to run between the tackles which makes him not only the prototypical Thomas Dale running back, but one of the most productive in the state.
“He’s a downhill runner. He’s a traditional old-school Thomas Dale back,” Tucker said. “He has that speed burst when you need it, but at the same time you can run him between the tackles 20 to 25 times a game and he can take the pounding.”
But Thomas Dale has yet to have to run him consistently for a full four quarters.
The Knights are loaded with talent in the backfield which also includes Jordan Rawls and Justin Cooper. The two seniors have combined to produce 508 yards and four touchdowns, helping to contribute to Dale’s average of 213 rushing yards per game.
Yet, for all of the talent, it’s Finney receiving much of the carries.
It’s a position he was meant for. It’s also a position he’s always wanted to play.
“Since I was kid,” Finney said about his love for football. “I was always faster than everyone else so I just knew.”
And he was right.
Finney has averaged 6.68 yards per carry this season, but takes pride in his ability to run away from would-be tacklers, saying that it’s just the way he envisioned himself playing while watching the player he tries to emulate.
“Barry Sanders,” Finney said without hesitation. “He plays the same way that I play. I take pride in outrunning everyone.”
And that’s what Finney has done this season, even recording a 92 yard touchdown run. However, his most complete game may have come last week when he ran the ball 14 times for 215 yards and three touchdowns.
It’s a performance which allowed the Knights to rest their starters late in the game in preparation for their final two match-ups this season. But even while being responsible for almost half of his team’s 47 points on the night, Finney remains modest and gives credit to the big men up front.
“Without my line, I couldn’t be who I am,” Finney said of his offensive line. “They allow me to show up and run the ball.”
However, the relationship between the offensive line and its starting running back goes beyond Friday nights.
Finney constantly talks to his linemen, getting to know them as friends and in turn form a perfect partnership which helps open up the passing game. As more defenders creep into the box, the easier it becomes to throw the ball for Trevor Luke who’s completed 61 percent of his passes this season.
All of it combines to add up to what Thomas Dale’s team-wide motto is this season — bringing the pride back. It’s a confidence that has grown throughout the season.
And with a running back like Finney in the backfield, Thomas Dale’s confidence will continue to grow as he helps bring the pride back to the program one carry at a time.