Brownstown Township — Metro Detroit area high school football fans know all about highly recruited running backs in Peny Boone (Maryland) of Detroit King and four-star junior Donovan Edwards of West Bloomfield.
But, while King (0-2) — which started the season ranked No. 2 by The News — and West Bloomfield (1-1) — the preseason No. 1 ranked team in the state — have already suffered a loss or two this season, there are multiple other talented running backs who have gotten the job done while going under the radar to help their respective teams to 2-0 starts.
Clarence Corbett has used his size (6-foot, 260 pounds) and speed (4.7) to lead Woodhaven to a 2-0 start. The senior has averaged 13.5 yards a carry (271 yards on 20 attempts).
Corbett broke loose for a 60-yard touchdown in a 48-14 season-opening win over Taylor. He then rushed for 185 yards and three TDs, including a 70-yard TD in a 37-22 win over Downriver League-rival Gibraltar Carlson and Michigan State-bound Ian Stewart.
Woodhaven and Gibraltar Carlson shared the Downriver League title last season.
Then there’s Orchard Lake St. Mary’s Anthony Anton, who is averaging 11.1 yards a carry (29-323).
He ran for 138 yards on 15 attempts in a season-opening 28-14 win over Macomb Dakota.
For an encore, Anton racked up 185 yards and four TDs in a 40-3 rout at Angola (Ind.). He had 182 yards on 13 carries in the first half.
And, don’t forget Ypsilanti Lincoln’s Kyjuan Rice, who averaged more than 10 yards a carry last season (48-548), and has put together consecutive 100-plus yard games in wins over Adrian and Tecumseh.
He ran for 235 yards on 10 carries, including three TDs in a 41-20 season-opening win over Adrian, followed by a 150-yard effort against Tecumseh.
Woodhaven veteran coach Keith Christnagel is thrilled to have Corbett back in the lineup after missing the majority of last season due to an ankle injury.
“Corbett attended a camp at Ferris State this summer and a coach from the staff called me and said, ‘You know he’s 260 pounds, but he ran a 4.7 so we offered him,’” Christnagel said.
Corbett has high expectations for his senior year.
“This season, as a team, our main goal is to go out there and play every game like it’s our last game,” Corbett said. “We want to go 9-and-0 and we have a big out of conference game (Week 9 home game against No. 5 Birmingham Groves), so that will be a battle and hopefully we can take it all the way.
“My goal is to get a 1,000-yard season and I hope to get that during the next few weeks because we have some battles coming up and our plan is to just run it down their throats. I have a pretty good line and we have some pretty good blockers. Everything is a process, so we’re only going to get better.”
Corbett rushed for 500 yards last season despite missing multiple games, suffering the ankle injury in Week 3. He got stronger in the weight room, benching 225 pounds 10 times, while also having a strong track and field season this past spring, winning the Division 1 state championship in the shot put with a toss of 56 feet, 3 inches.
Corbett rolled his ankle in the season opener against Taylor, but came back for his big performance against Gibraltar Carlson.
“I taped it up and did what I had to do,” Corbett said. “Right now, I’m feeling better. We have Lincoln Park this week. Hopefully, we’ll get that 'W' and then we got Wyandotte (Sept. 20).”
So, how was Corbett able to perform at such a high level with the ankle injury?
“That’s a big team, so I really wasn’t worried about my ankle,” Corbett said. “I was more worried about my team and helping us get the job done.”
When asked what his strength was, Corbett replied: “I’m a power runner, but I can also bounce outside. My quickness will allow me to stay up there and get out, and a lot of people don’t want to tackle me. And, the way that our offensive scheme is set up, I can run it or the quarterback can run it so you never really know who is going to get the ball. With him (Josh Waters) being a dual threat, it’s very dangerous.”
Christnagel said he had thoughts of also using Corbett at defensive end, but decided against it to keep him healthy.
“We do the power read now, but it’s similar (to option), and he’s just big and powerful, he’s explosive and he blocks as well as he runs the ball,” Christnagel said. “For his size, 255 pounds, he gets some big, long runs. He’s deceivingly fast for how big he is, just a great weapon to have.”
Woodhaven quarterback Josh Waters is happy to have Corbett working alongside him in the backfield.
“He’s awesome, 250 pounds, can run it anywhere. He’s so fast that he can make anyone miss,” Waters said. “He has people bouncing off of him every play. It’s just awesome.”
Yes, awesome for Woodhaven fans, coaches and players, but not so much for would-be tacklers.