‘Vliet run game led by su­per soph

Can­noneers run­ning back Ka­reem Duncan has 9 TDs this sea­son

The Record (Troy, NY) - - SPORTS - By Sam Blum sblum@digitalfirstmedia.com On Twit­ter @SamBlum3

WATER­VLIET, N.Y., » Ka­reem Duncan came into his first sea­son as a Water­vliet run­ning back ul­tra-pre­pared. He fit­ted his body dur­ing the sum­mer with jogs, weight-lift­ing, and as he says, eat­ing right.

For a player who sat out as a fresh­man last year to have nine touch­downs in five games, it shows just how far he’s come. The one thing he did strug­gle with, al­most to his detri­ment, was hold­ing onto the foot­ball.

It’s a prob­lem that man­i­fested it­self in prac­tice. It seeped into game­play. Duncan even fum­bled a wouldbe game-win­ning touch­down in what turned out to be Water­vliet’s only loss this sea­son at Voorheesville.

“Dur­ing prac­tice, I started mak­ing the run­ning backs ac­tu­ally carry balls through prac­tices, and any­body could knock them out,” run­ning backs coach Bryan Bruce said. “Just tried to al­ter his hold­ing — high and tight, be­cause they were car­ry­ing it low and the ball out a lot. Do­ing a lot of ball se­cu­rity drills. Just try­ing to make sure they’re al­ways aware that the ball could come out at any mo­ment.”

Last sea­son, Duncan’s fam­ily didn’t let him play foot­ball. There was no ju­nior var­sity team, and they didn’t want to send a ninth­grader onto a field with kids sev­eral years older than him. The Water­vliet coaches would have taken him on the var­sity ros­ter, but it wasn’t ever an op­tion for them.

But it be­came ev­i­dent early on in train­ing camp that he’d be a go-to player in his sopho­more sea­son for the Can­noneers.

Water­vliet is 5-1 on the sea­son, in first place of the South Div­sion in Class C and an hon­or­able men­tion in the state rank­ings. They get

to host a win­less Corinth team on Fri­day night with the hopes of clos­ing out the reg­u­lar sea­son strong. The Can­noneers have a run­heavy of­fense, and it goes through Duncan.

“It means a lot, it means I’m a leader of the team,” Duncan said. “And the team de­pends on me. I have to show up ev­ery game. And our of­fen­sive line shows up for me ev­ery game too.”

Duncan is a strong and stocky run­ner, and head coach Brian Hoe­fer cred­its his “in­cred­i­ble” vi­sion for his suc­cess as well. He knows, Hoe­fer said, to make the right cut off the of­fen­sive line­man block. And some­times you can’t teach that.

Hoe­fer said he’d love to be able to throw the ball more, but his run-heavy of­fense is just a fac­tor of the per­son­nel that he has to work with. The Can­noneers run the ball well, and it’s shaped what has been a re­ally suc­cess­ful of­fen­sive sea­son for Water­vliet.

“We saw him at camp and we saw the things he could do,” Hoe­fer said. “And that was only a glimpse. And we were re­ally sur­prised at how well he picked up things and he re­ally be­came the fo­cal point of our team and our of­fen­sive leader.”

Water­vliet only has 432 pass­ing yards this sea­son, com­pared to more than 1,200 on the ground. Maybe there have been some is­sues with hold­ing onto the ball early this sea­son. But those have been ad­dressed, worked on, and as a re­sult, Duncan is be­com­ing one of the bet­ter run­ning backs in Class C.

“(Last) year I was kind of ner­vous,” Duncan said. “I ad­mit I was kind of ner­vous, kind of scared. I worked out all sum­mer, be­fore this sea­son, just to pre­pare for this sea­son and be ready.”


Ka­reem Duncan prac­tices on Wednesday in ad­vance of Water­vliet’s game against Corinth on Fri­day.


Ka­reem Duncan prac­tices on Wednesday, Oct. 11, in ad­vance of Water­vliet’s game against Corinth on Fri­day.

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