In the last few seasons, when one thinks of Lumberton football, the name of running back Robert Henry immediately comes to mind.
That’s understandable given that the senior running back has rushed for over 5,200 yards in the last three years and last year alone was responsible for over 2,000 yards of offense.
However, many may not be aware of junior Trevon Jessie and sophomore Shavante Toney. Last year the running back duo quietly combined for 1,300 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns behind Henry.
According to Lumberton coach Zach Jones, he was not sure how successful the duo could be.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Jones said. “We knew they were capable, but I thought they both grew into the role as the year went on. It’s hard because you’re sitting there with a quarterback that you know can run the football, and you have two other guys that can run the ball. It’s hard for the defense to key in on one person. That’s the big key for us offensively.”
Each running back put together breakout games that certified their roles in not only becoming Henry’s relief but the backbreaker for several defenses.
Against Stringer, Toney rushed for 118-yards and a touchdown and later had a three-touchdown game against Mount Olive. In total, Toney rushed for 838 yards, averaged 6.7 yards per carry and scored 11 touchdowns.
Jessie, who totaled 528 yards while averaging 6.2 yards per carry and eight touchdowns, scored two touchdowns against Leake County and had a 96-yard, two-touchdown performance against Sacred Heart.
“I thought they both made that three, four and five-yard run for us which is really big,” Jones said. “They both are unselfish. They don’t mind getting those tough yards or block for Robert if that’s what they need to do. They just want to win.
“They are both winners, and they both work extremely hard. They stepped into a role last year, and I was proud of both of them. There are both things that they both do well, and they are both physical. Their ultimate goal is for us to win. You can win a lot of football games with kids like that.”
However, if you ask either Jessie or Toney, having a spotlight is not their priority. Rather, simply just winning and doing whatever role is asked of them to help their team win is their concentration, which according to Jones, is a showcase of their work ethic.
For Toney, he holds himself to a high standard in practice, so playing at a high level is always prepared.
“It comes from practice, and practice is how you play it,” Jessie said. “I can shake you if I have to, and if I have to, I can run you over. It goes both ways.”
According to Toney, the only goal for himself, Jessie and the rest of the team is to return and win the state championship. Splitting carries, blocking, or doing any other task that can contribute to the team is his main focus.
“(The goal) is trying to get back to that state championship,” Toney said. “We lost last year, but we want to get back there.
“We have to go out there and work hard. I fight for every yard. I’m good at blocking, and I think I’m a good blocker. If Rob needs that extra block, then I’m there.”
Both Toney and Jessie credit Henry for helping them develop their style of play but also with teaching them the position
“Rob used to get on me,” Jessie said. “He used to hit me hard every day, and it made me get better every day at practice. That’s what got me here now. He taught me how to play the way I play.”
“I work with (Henry) a lot too,” Toney added. “Everything I know is basically from him. I used to play running back, but he taught me things that I didn’t know. How to hit the holes and how to by physical.”
Jones said that both players proved that they need to be more involved in the team’s game plan plans for Toney and Jessie to become more involved on offense and to see playing time on the defensive side of the ball for the upcoming season.
“We need to do a better job of getting our best athletes on the field,” Jones said, “They are both going to be valuable to us on defense, especially in the upcoming year. You’ll see them lineup at receiver sometimes. There’s no sense for them sitting on the bench for half the game on offense. A screen pass for them is like calling a sweep. We’ll be doing a better job of getting those guys involved in the offense and make them more threatening.
“I appreciate them coming to work every day,” Jones said. “They have been every workout this summer. They always make our workouts, and even on days they don’t feel good, they will still give you their best. I think it amplifies what we want our football program to be about.”