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Published: Friday, 10/24/2003

Royals' Rhoad to success

BY DONALD EMMONS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

BLOOMDALE - The past summer was no vacation for Kyle Rhoad and many of his Elmwood teammates.

They kept plenty busy.

The Royals spent days in the weight room. They expended nearly as much time and energy on the track and football field running with a mission in mind.

With a win over Woodmore tonight the Royals will become co-Suburban Lakes League champions.

“I knew our team had a lot of potential to compete for the league championship,” Rhoad said.

And Elmwood's starting quarterback has had plenty to do with the Royals heading into the final game of the regular season within one win of that title share. Elmwood, Woodmore, Lake and defending champion Eastwood are locked in a four-way tie for first place with 5-1 records. The Elmwood-Woodmore winner and the Lake-Eastwood winner will end up finishing atop of the SLL standings.

Rhoad's handprints and footprints are all over what has taken place this fall. He's among the SLL's leaders in passing, rushing and scoring.

The 5-10, 175-pound senior has accounted for more than 3,000 yards. He's passed for more than 2,000 to go along with scrambling for nearly 1,000 yards on the ground. He's responsible for scoring 35 of the offense's touchdowns (26 passing, 9 rushing). He even ran back a kickoff for another score.

“He's just an amazing kid,” Elmwood coach Dean Zeigler said. “He's not only a tremendous athlete, he's an all-around kid and the other kids feed off of him.”

Rhoad, Brian Berry, Adam Blachuta and Ben Heater serve as team captains. But it's clear which member of the team has played the most instrumental role in the Royals (6-3) ending a streak of three straight losing seasons.

“Without Rhoad we wouldn't be as good as a team,” Elmwood wideout Eric Wansitler said. “He pretty much does it all.”

Blachuta concurs.

“He's a big part of our offense,” Blachuta said. “With his arm he can throw the football anywhere he wants to, and he can run with the football because he's the fastest guy on the team.”

Rhoad didn't slow down once the season began. He and his teammates never stopped working. The only difference between the summer and fall is the Royals' work is being measured by the number of wins instead of strength gains and sprint times.

“I think the weight room is the biggest thing,” Rhoad said. “I'm definitely a lot stronger and my speed has gotten a lot better.

“I was up there before, but I was probably not the fastest. I did a lot of sprint work to improve my leg strength to try and get faster.”

Rhoad doesn't actually know how much he's improved his foot-speed since the summer workouts. He only knows that eluding the pass rush and picking up first downs with his feet has become nearly as easy as using his accurate arm.

“Running the football is definitely a part of the game,” Rhoad said. “The biggest thing is if it helps our team win that's what I'm going to do.”

Rhoad, who passed for more than 2,000 yards last season, has 126 carries for a team-leading 882 yards while having completed 137 of 229 pass attempts for 2,018 yards.

The receiving quartet of Blachuta (38 catches for 494 yards, 7 TDs), Wansitler (32 for 463, 8 TDs), Berry (31 for 539, 4 TDs) and Chad Reynolds (27 for 366, 5 TDs) have made it difficult for opposing defenses to key on Rhoad.

“We're more mature this season,” said Blachuta, whose reception total is actually down from a year ago when he led the team with 53. “We know how to keep things much more under control [because] this is a double-threat offense where we can run and we can pass.”

And it all starts with Rhoad.



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