By David Krueger Herald Writer
Austin Hall was pretty sore when he woke up last Saturday.
If you had the Friday night he had, you would be sore too.
The Kamiak High School running back carried the ball 42 times for 191 yards, helping the Knights hang with Jackson before ultimately falling to the Timberwolves, 21-20. At the time, neither Hall nor Kamiak coach Dan Mack realized just how many carries the junior had racked up.
“I was amazed at the end. I was so into the game I didn’t realize I carried it that much until after (Mack) told me,” Hall said. “I was really excited. I’ve never run that much in high school. It was really cool.”
Despite the exceptional workload, Hall has been going hard all week in practice, Mack said, as Kamiak looks to rebound in a Wesco 4A South game tonight against Edmonds-Woodway.
“Forty-two carries is a lot of carries for a young man and he was sore Saturday morning,” Mack said. “But, gosh, by Tuesday he was ready to go. He’s a gamer. He’s a back with a lot of stamina and heart. He just has such a feel for the game. He definitely has some speed and just a real strong will.”
Mack said Hall has rushed for better than 100 yards in each of the Knights’ past eight games. What makes that feat all the more impressive, Hall isn’t a huge back by high school standards. He is listed on the roster at 5-foot-10, 175 pounds.
“He’s not a small back, but he’s not a large back either,” said Jackson head coach Joel Vincent, who had the unenviable task of trying to stop Hall last Friday. “He’s an average-sized kid for a high school running back, but he runs bigger than he appears. You hit him at a 2-yard gain and he still falls forward for four (yards). You’re thinking, ‘I read it, I saw him, and he still moved the chains forward. Now I’ll be out here for three more plays.’”
Hall isn’t exclusively in the backfield. Mack lines him up at different spots on offense, sometimes at slot receiver or on the wing.
“First and foremost my guys needed to know where he was,” Vincent said. “(When he ran) I put eight, nine guys in the box and he was still moving those chains every three plays. We did a nice job, in that he didn’t break any big, long runs off us. We made him work. But the frustrating thing was the chains kept moving and the defense couldn’t get off the field.
“It was Austin Hall left. Austin Hall right. Austin Hall first down.”
Hall, who starts at strong safety on defense, began his football career in the fifth grade as a wide receiver. Two years later, while playing for his middle school team, he switched to running back. He’s been there ever since.
“I like it a lot more because you get the ball a lot and can make big plays,” Hall said.
Mack raves about Hall, not only as a football player, but as a person. He praises Hall for his incredible work ethic, which extends beyond Kamiak football.
“He’s an exceptional teammate. This guy has the respect of everyone,” Mack said. “When he comes to practice, he comes to work. He’s the type of kid that grabs his hard hat and his boots every day when he comes to practice. He’s just a great example for everybody. Just a terrific person. He does it in the classroom and on the field.”
Hall has begun to receive recruiting letters. If it were up to him, he’d play for a prestigious program in the Pacific Northwest.
“My dream school is probably somewhere in the Pac-12 (Conference), like Washington or Oregon,” Hall said. “I think it would be fun to play at home for the Huskies.”
Hall, who charged the field with other Husky fans after the Dawgs’ 17-13 upset of then-ranked No. 8 Stanford on Sept. 27, will be watching this weekend when UW plays Oregon. But before that, he’s got a conference showdown of his own tonight.
“We want to still win our conference and make the playoffs,” he said. “Then do really well in playoffs and see where that takes us.”
The Knights’ bid for a playoff spot would get a significant boost if they can beat the Warriors tonight. Both teams are 1-1 in league.
“The winner’s in control of their own destiny for playoffs, the loser puts themselves behind the eight-ball a little bit,” E-W coach John Gradwohl said. “I told my kids it’s a must-win. They know it’s a must-win.”
Gradwohl is well aware of Hall, and is counting on his defensive players to be where they’re supposed to be in order to stop him.
“(Hall) finds the seams and he goes north and south. He runs hard,” Gradwohl said. “We’ve seen a lot of good backs. I’m not really worried about Austin Hall. I’m more worried about our guys. He’s going to do what he does and our job is to stop him.
“You’ve got to stop the gaps and make sure he doesn’t break one. If you don’t do that, it doesn’t matter if it’s Austin Hall or Bullwinkle, he’s going to run for a lot of yards.”
Hall doesn’t know if he’ll run the ball 42 times against Edmonds-Woodway, but he’s ready to do so if necessary.
“I don’t know if it’ll be that much,” he said, “but I sure hope so.”