Thursday, October 25, 2007

Call Him the New Conduit for Giles

Call him the new conduit for Giles
With its potent single wing offense, the Spartans are averaging 35.7 points per game.
Ray Cox

PEARISBURG -- Picture an athlete of all-around ability.

This athlete has good speed. He has routinely won most of the footraces he has been in since first grade. He has a strong right arm, so strong that his baseball coach has stationed him in center field, a position that also requires above-average speed.

He's quick -- so quick that he has learned to sidestep and elude those who try to slow or stop him.

Picture a young man strong of both body and mind, the kind who's up for a challenge and not dismayed by setback.

There you have it. Before you stands Sheldon Douthat, Giles High School tailback, the conduit through which the potent Spartans offense must pass.

Douthat is a senior who entered the season as a possible heir to a long tradition of memorable Giles single wing offense tailbacks. By the third game of the season, he had outpaced the competition and earned the starter's job.

Spartans coach Steve Ragsdale knew Douthat had measured up to a high standard.

"When you're talking about replacing guys such as Ricky Cook and Nathan Tanner, you're talking about replacing some pretty darned good football players," Ragsdale said.

Cook, a 2006 graduate, and Tanner, who graduated this year, were the last two tailbacks to lead Giles to a state Group A Division 2 championship game. Giles won the 2006 crown and was runner-up last year.

Douthat never started until this year, but that is not to say he was inexperienced. As the powerful Spartans were blowing out opponent after opponent last year, reserves such as Douthat had plenty of opportunities to be sent into action in order to gain experience.

Consider that a continuation of his football education.

"I've been playing tailback off and on ever since I've been in the program," the 5-foot-11, 170-pound Douthat said.

Throw in some time at end when he was on the junior varsity team and regular deployments at defensive halfback and you have the makings of a complete football player.

Giles has lots of guys who can run the football -- Hunter Williams, Gavin Lee, Mario Jones, Cody Journell -- and Douthat certainly can do that, too. In the end, what separated him from the rest was his throwing ability.

"In the single wing, we have to have a tailback who can throw," Ragsdale said. "Sheldon is a very good passer."

Douthat got off to a rough start this year. In the 46-43 six-overtime thriller of a win over Blacksburg in the season opener, Douthat was slowed by cramps and was out of the lineup when Lee scored the winning touchdown.

The next week against Christiansburg, Douthat hurt his back. Nevertheless, by the third game against Narrows, he had been installed as the first string tailback.

"It's good to know the coach has confidence in me," he said. "I don't mind sharing the position if it helps the team, though."

One hidden benefit of being the first team tailback is that there is less to learn. Everybody else in the backfield has to know how to play two positions, whether that be tailback and fullback or fullback and wingback or whatever.

Interestingly, none of the current crop of backs had varsity starting experience coming into the season. That hasn't seemed to slow the Spartans much. With Floyd County arriving Friday night for what figures to be the Three Rivers District showdown of the year, Giles has averaged 35.7 points per game.

That's what athletic ability and a plan can do for you.

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