SIOUX CITY | Dominique Carson was the first Sioux City Bandits running back to appear in Saturday night’s first-round CIF Playoff game at the Tyson Events Center.
Former Wayne State athlete Frederick Bruno saw backfield action on the Bandits’ next possession. Then the Bismarck Bucks saw some doses of running back Jeffrey Mack during a late first-quarter series.
Maurice Young ran a nifty reverse for a four-yard touchdown early in the second quarter. Shortly before halftime, Bandits Coach Erv Strohbeen fooled the Bucks when he turned wide receiver Jeremiah Oates loose, running one of those jet sweeps that’s made Bruno unstoppable since he’s come on the scene in 2011.
“I guess we have a lot of running backs,” said the diminutive Carson, a 5-foot-6, 160-pound package who led the balanced rushing attack with 41 yards during the 82-43 rout.
“It’s a bunch of us. Everyone on our team is a running back. We’re all receivers as well. We all try to play our part. Whoever is supposed to get the ball is going to get it, whoever zone blocks. That’s the way we roll over here.”
Sioux City is the only CIF team that has four running backs with more than 200 yards. Carson tops the list with 564 yards and 21 touchdowns, followed by Bruno (438, 15), Mack (352, 17) and former Briar Cliff athlete Drew Prohaska (268, 7).
With the exception of Mack, each of them averages well over five yards per carry for the 10-3 Northern Conference champions, who average a league-best 126.5 yards rushing heading into Saturday night’s CIF Northern Conference championship game at the Tyson Events Center against Omaha (8-5).
“If you know anything about football, you know you need a good group of running backs because they’ll take you a long way,” said Carson. “We all have the same experience. Nobody can tell because we all move different. Everybody is pretty strong. We have Drew as the big back if anything, but at the same time, he’s very quick and shifty. We don’t want to call anyone a big back or a small back.”
“When you put out point totals like we have been putting out, it’s hard to argue with what we’re doing with the ball,” said Strohbeen. “Most teams in indoor football like to line up and throw the football. I think it suits our offense well to run it because we have the guys up front and the running backs. Also, it’s hard for other teams to gear up because they don’t see that in practice. They go against teams that like to throw it. Our offense throws something different at them.”
Easily the CIF’s top rushing team by a 1,645 yards to 1,355 margin over Omaha, the Bandits have topped 100 yards rushing in each of the last eight games. However, Strohbeen’s squad has only one 100-yard rusher on the season, Bruno, who gained 111 yards in a 63-61 loss at Bismarck on May 6.
Listed as a wide receiver on the roster, Bruno tops that department with 34 catches for 301 yards. Bruno, who has five touchdown catches, is a utility type of player who has amassed 1,379 all-purpose yards, which is 18 less than Carson, a first-year Bandit.
Carson, who rushed for a season-best 93 yards in a 62-56 win over Bloomington on April 15, wasn’t in Strohbeen’s roster when the sixth-year head coach prepared for training camp.
“When we were able to pick up Dominique Carson, he was in camp with the Nebraska Danger out of the IFL,” said Strohbeen. “He got cut before our report day for camp. He called me up.”
At the time, Prohaska and Mack were only running backs on the Bandits’ roster. Then, Strohbeen made the decision that set the tone for the season.
“I sat down with the coaching staff and I said we were going to go with three running backs,” said Strohbeen. “We’re going to put a hurting on those guys up front. We have one of the best offensive lines in the business, so why wouldn’t you bring a guy like that in?”
From left to right on the Bandits’ offensive line are tackle Arthur Doakes (6-5, 350), center Matt Rahn (6, 4, 370) and right guard Darius Barnes (6-4, 380). They block for an offense that averages 4.6 yards per carry, 60.5 points and 252.8 total yards per game.
And Strohbeen is glad Carson is aboard.
“He’s meant everything to our running game,” said Strohbeen. “He’s fast. He can make something out of nothing. Even in those plays you watch over the course of a season, he will take a pitch to the outside and it won’t be there and he takes it all the way back to the other side for a touchdown. He finds the end zone. He finds the holes.”