Springfield's Tavion Smoot runs against Xenia on Friday, Sept. 28, 2018, at Evans Stadium in Springfield. David Jablonski/Staff

High School Football: Top 7 underclass running backs last season

The following were the Top 7 most productive area underclass running backs from the 2018 high school football season (alphabetical order). The football preseason begins Thursday, Aug. 1. Most teams will play Week 1 games on Friday, Aug. 30.

Northmont RB Michael Franklin (with ball) makes a short gain during a 49-20 Week 5 loss at Wayne on Friday, Sept. 21, 2018. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

Michael Franklin, Northmont, 5-8, 160, jr.: Emerged as the go-to ground gainer to complement QB Miles Johnson. Gained 1,092 yards on 197 carries (5.5) and scored 15 TDs in 12 games for the Thunderbolts (10-2, D-I, Region 3). Breakout effort was a school-record 280 yards rushing and four TDs in a 35-14 Week 3 win against visiting Tippecanoe.

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Anna’s Riley Huelskamp carries the ball during their 14-10 loss to Madison in their playoff game Friday, Nov. 3 at Madison High School in Madison Township. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Riley Huelskamp, Anna, 5-10, 175, jr.: Rushed for 1,456 yards on 243 carries (5.9) and a school-record 24 TDs (27 overall). Added 242 kickoff return yards and generated 1,904 yards of total offense. Anna (8-4, D-V, Region 18) earned a share of the MAC title with Marion Local, a first for the Rockets. Two-time All-MAC running back.

Chaminade Julienne RB Quincy Johnson (24) runs during a 58-16 Week 3 defeat of visiting Greenville in the 2018 season. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

Quincy Johnson, Chaminade Julienne, 5-9, 182, jr.: Had a midseason, four-game run of 647 yards rushing and nine TDs, including a career-best 246 yards in a 20-14 Week 8 defeat of visiting McNicholas. In all, had 1,030 yards rushing in 170 carries (6.1) and 15 TDs in 11 games. Will join senior RB Marquis Henry (597 yards, nine TDs) and senior QB Ryan Minor (1,021 yards passing, 16 TDs) – both of whom played only five games and sat the rest due to a new transfer rule – in a loaded CJ (7-4, D-III, Region 12) backfield.

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Fenwick’s John Stevenson (38) puts a hit on Clinton-Massie tailback Brendan Lamb during Friday night’s game at Krusling Field in Middletown. Visiting C-M won 21-18. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY ANGIE MOHRHAUS

Brendan Lamb, Clinton-Massie, 5-10, 185, jr.: There were high hopes from this transfer from Lebanon and he delivered. Rushed for 1,010 yards on 131 carries (7.7) in just seven regular-season games. A key contributor in the run-heavy Falcons (10-2, D-IV, Region 16) rushing for nearly 4,000 yards.

Alter’s Branden McDonald, shown against Fairmont in Week 1, had 344 yards rushing in a 49-14 win at Cincinnati Roger Bacon on Friday, Sept. 14, 2018. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

Branden McDonald, Alter, 6-1, 224, so.: Figured to be a blocking back for senior John Bivens, who had rushed for 1,200-plus yards in the 2017 season. That changed when Bivens sat out the season recovering from a leg injury. McDonald answered by unloading 1,612 yards rushing in 194 carries (8.3) and 17 TDs in 14 games. Great blend of speed and burly power, put 334 yards and four TDs on Roger Bacon in a 49-14 Week 4 win. Had 101 yards rushing for Alter (13-2, D-III, Region 12) in a 42-6 state-title loss to Chagrin Falls Kenston.

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Wayne’s Devin Nelson (with ball) ran for five touchdowns. Wayne defeated visiting Fairmont 49-44 in a Week 8 high school football game on Friday, Oct. 12, 2018. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

Devin Nelson, Wayne, 6-0, 190, jr.: In 11 games led the Warriors (7-4, D-I, Region 3) with 184 rushes for 1,216 yards (6.6) and 19 TDs. Was especially effective the second half of the season, accounting for 915 yards and 14 TDs in the final six games. Went for five TDs in a 49-44 Week 8 shootout defeat of visiting Fairmont.

Springfield’s Tavion Smoot runs against Xenia on Friday, Sept. 28, 2018, at Evans Stadium in Springfield. David Jablonski/Staff

Tavion Smoot, Springfield, 5-11, 240, jr.: Like Alter’s McDonald, a big and powerful backfield force. Totaled 978 yards rushing in 162 carries (6.0) and had six TDs in 12 games. Was the difference-maker with 108 yards rushing and two TDs in Springfield’s (9-3, D-I, Region 3) first-round playoff defeat of Fairmont.

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Bonus 7

Jason Blake, Troy Christian, 6-0; 190, jr.: 1,048 yards on 165 carries (6.5) and 14 TDs for Eagles (8-2, D-VI, Region 24).

Hunter Fillmore, Waynesville, 5-10, 140, jr.: 818 yards in 163 carries (5.0) and seven TDs for Spartans (6-4, D-V, Region 20). Career-high 234 yards in a 45-38 Week 6 loss at Milton-Union.

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Marquis Henry, CJ, 5-10, 210, jr.: 597 yards on 64 carries (9.3) and nine TDs in five games. Includes 245 yards and six TDs in a 61-30 Week 5 defeat of visiting Carroll.

Ben Hobbs, Preble Shawnee, 6-2, 205, jr.: 1,101 yards on 162 carries (6.7) and 14 TDs in nine games for the Arrows (3-7, D-V, Region 20).

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Gage Johnson, Franklin, 5-10, 180, jr.: 761 yards in 135 carries (5.6) and 12 TDs for Wildcats (6-4, D-III, Region 12).

Clay Payton, Greeneview, 5-9, 175, jr.: 1,037 yards on 100 carries (10.3) and 15 TDs for Rams (10-2, D-V, Region 20).

Reece Stammen, Ansonia, 5-10, 200, so.: 800 yards in 135 carries (5.9) and 11 TDs for Tigers (8-3, D-VII, Region 28).

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