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Although the football teams at Scott and Libbey rank near the bottom of the City League standings through eight games, the Bulldogs and Cowboys each boast senior running backs who rank among the league's best.
From a size standpoint they are distinctly different, but when its comes to running style, Scott's 5-8 1/2, 175-pound Romen Walton and Libbey's 6-1, 215-pound JayRon Kynard are not so far apart.
Each has speed - Walton will perhaps be the CL's top returning 100 and 200-meter sprinter in track this spring, and Kynard has run the 40-yard dash in 4.53 seconds - and both prefer the blunt-force, straight-ahead power approach to toting the football.
Kynard's nickname is "Tank," and it fits, according to Cowboys coach Eric Henderson. But this moniker could just as easily fit Walton, according to Bulldogs coach Matt Davis.
"He's a strong, powerful runner," Henderson said of Kynard. "He's big, he's strong and he's fast. He doesn't have great agility, but he'll run you over."
"I'm more of a power runner," Kynard said. "If I feel that I need to turn up the juice, then I turn it up on 'em."
The smaller Walton is also hard to tackle.
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"People look at his size and think that he's more of an elusive runner," Davis said, "but he's a power runner. If he gets a chance to lay a hit on you as a running back, a la Walter Payton, he will do that first. He's broken some big plays after he ran over somebody."
"That's how I was brought up to run," Walton said, "to punish the defender before he punishes me.''
While their teams sport matching 3-5 (1-4 CL) records, Walton leads the City in rushing with 1,203 yards on 168 carries (7.2 average) with nine touchdowns, and Kynard ranks fourth with 976 yards on 171 attempts (5.7 average) with eight TDs.
"He's been very valuable to us, not only as a running back but as a leader," Davis said of Walton. "He's very unselfish. If he runs the ball five or six times in a row, he's like, 'Give the ball to somebody else. Give them a chance.' That's the good thing about him, and I think the other kids like that."
Kynard, who rushed for 950 yards last season, had a career-best 219 yards on 30 carries with two TDs in the Cowboys' 26-12 CL win over Waite on Oct. 1. In Libbey's season-opening 20-14 win over Toledo Christian, Kynard set a school record with a 98-yard TD run.
Beyond the numbers, Kynard has also proven loyal. A known talent after last season, he chose to stay at Libbey, which has struggled for years to field a competitive team. This bucked the recent trend of top high school athletes transferring to a program for a better chance to win and gain exposure.
"He could have had opportunities to go elsewhere, obviously, and he probably could have gone elsewhere and taken a team to the playoffs," Henderson said. "But he's a good kid, he has a lot of friends over here, and he's well respected. Not just by football players, but by his teachers and administrators.
"The group of seniors we have now, he has kind of led to a certain point, and they have all stuck together. Two years ago as sophomores on the JV squad, they were 5-1 and gave up six points in six games. I think he felt like he was here to help the coaches build a program."
Kynard admits considering a transfer.
"When I first played here my freshman year we were 2-4, and then my JV year we were 5-1," Kynard said. "As I looked at the numbers I thought I could really make things turn around here.
"But we were 1-9 last year, so for my senior year, I was thinking, 'What should I do, leave or stay with my team that I've been with for three years?' If I would have walked on to an opposing team I might've felt real bad. I thank the coaches for having us here. They keep telling the team to keep coming out to help turn the school around."
Scott was 3-7 last year when Walton rushed for 507 yards, and he also stayed the course.
"I'm 100 percent loyal to Scott," he said. "It's my home. The only time I'm going to leave is when I go off to college. It's disappointing when you lose. But I'm part of the team and, if I'm going to be disappointed, I've got to be disappointed in myself because I could've done more. We all work hard."
"He keeps his head up, and so do the other kids," Davis said. "They know the situation they're in. They're not giving up in these games. After a while the morale can go down, but he's never dropped his head and he helps keep the other kids going."
"Bowling Green and Toledo have looked at JayRon," Henderson said. "Ball State, Miami, OU, Akron, Kent. He got some informational letters from Michigan, Illinois and Purdue. He's definitely a Division I player."
"We're going to look at some junior colleges," Davis said. "It's a case where [Walton] has some troubles at home and, like with any kid, you can get distracted.
"The best thing for him right now, instead of struggling and trying to get the grades and get the ACT scores, it might alleviate some of the pressure by just going the junior college route."
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