NORTH COURTLAND — R.A. Hubbard High tailback John Owens may be small in stature, but his impact has been big on the Chiefs this season.
At 5-foot-7 and 170 pounds, Owens is one of the main reasons R.A. Hubbard is in the second round of the Class 1A state playoffs. The Chiefs (7-4) host defending state champion Marion County on Friday night at 7.
Owens has run for 1,426 yards and 19 touchdowns this season for the Chiefs. He has also thrown two touchdown passes and returned a punt for a score.
The junior averages 17 carries a game, but ran the ball 27 times for 178 yards in last week's 18-15 first-round win at Collinsville.
It was the third time he had more than 20 carries in a game. His best game this season was a 23-carry, 298-yard night against Phillips in which he scored five touchdowns and passed for another. He also kicked six extra points.
R.A. Hubbard coach Nicholas Vinson said Owens doesn't mind running the ball inside with the big people, although his 4.5 speed in the 40-yard dash comes in handy.
"He may look like a small guy, but he runs like one who is 6-2, 230 pounds," Vinson said.
Junior lineman Eddquerion Harris said it's a privilege to block for Owens.
"He's definitely not scared to take a lick," Harris said.
Quarterback Darrain Almon gets a close-up look at Owens' runs.
"He's outstanding," Almon said. "He runs hard. He never gives up on a run. He doesn't avoid the big guys, either."
Vinson said Owens is able to withstand the hits that many his size can't because of hard work in the weight room. Vinson added the coaches went to work at the school field house last summer and found Owens working out by himself.
"His level of dedication showed me he is for real," Vinson said.
Owens said he works hard because he wants to play college football.
"My mamma said, 'If you want it, you have to go for it,' " Owens said. "I don't want to be just sitting around wasting away."
The other thing most people notice other than his size is Owens' big smile.
Those who know him say it's always prevalent from the Cleveland, Ohio, native who moved to Lawrence County as a 12-year-old.
"He knows how to make you laugh, and he does it 24-7," Almon said.
A self-described gamer who loves playing video-game football, Owens will appreciate Friday's contest with the defending champions. Marion County scored 83 points in a first-round win over Meek.
Friday's game is a rematch of last year's first-round game, which Marion won 35-30.
"They've got a great team with some great players, but I think we can compete with them," Owens said.
Vinson said Marion County may be known for its offense, but the Red Raiders' defense is playoff tested.
"They know how to tighten up with they get into the playoffs," Vinson said.
The Chiefs feel as if their team is on the upswing in this up-and-down season.
Owens said they came together after a 28-0 loss to Lawrence County in the regular season.
"That was a reality check," Owens said. "We decided we had to start playing more together."
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