NEW CARLISLE — All New Prairie running back Chris Mays ever wanted to do since he started playing football was run through defenders.
Whether on Friday nights or during practice with kids in his way, the senior's best trait on the field has been and still is his physicality. It gives the Cougars a great change of pace from their elusive, quick running quarterback, Chase Ketterer.
"I don't think I've ever coached someone as difficult to tackle on the first try as Chris," said associate head coach Bill Gumm of Mays, who had 1,009 yards and 17 touchdowns entering Friday's sectional opener. "It's really rare you ever see him go down after first contact. He has such a low center of gravity and runs so hard that makes him extremely hard to tackle."
Standing 6-feet tall and donning bulky shoulder pads, Mays looks the part of a physical back. But don't let that fool you. Gumm says one of the best aspects of Mays' game is his patience, emulating the same style of running as New York Jets tailback Le'Veon Bell.
Mays constantly lets his 1,500-pound offensive line set up their blocks, reads what hole is open, and hits it at top-speed. If for some reason that clogs up, he's extremely talented at making a juke or a cut to break a quick tackle and find another hole, or defender, to run through.
"When I was younger, my main thing was always running through people," Mays said. "I was never much for cutting and making reads on the field then because I just wasn't very good at it. I didn't really become much of a true running back until my sophomore year when they pulled me from a JV drill and told me that I could be seeing some time on the field on Friday nights."
The confidence the New Prairie coaching staff had in Mays to become a complete back by enhancing his intelligence on the field motivated him to study the game more in depth. Both he and Ketterer played running back on varsity their sophomore years, and now, they are part of a dynamic offensive duo on one of the best teams in the state.
Through a year playing the same position, followed by another two sharing the backfield, Mays and Ketterer have developed an incredible chemistry. Instead of relying on just Ketterer to read the defense, Gumm has Mays help out with those duties in order to put his team in the best possible play.
"He definitely helps a lot (with that)," Ketterer said. "Sometimes when I'm calling the plays I can't see everything, so he helps with the things I don't always see and makes sure to call them out. We both played running back on a team that won a sectional title before losing a heart-breaker to Lowell in the regionals. So we both got the opportunity to get some big game experience at an early stage. The more reps you get and the more times you see different things, we can draw on that and have an idea of how the other may react."
The experience Mays and Ketterer have had together the past three seasons make them experts at Gumm's offensive playbook. The two know exactly what plays need to be ran in any situation, and have the selflessness to put their personal goals aside in order to put points on the board.
"My favorite play is whatever one scores the touchdown," Mays said. "I try to stay unselfish and with a strong team-first attitude. I don't care whether I get the ball or not, I just love to be on the field winning games. It's an attitude my dad taught me to have when I was little."
With the playoffs underway, New Prairie needs to continue to rely on their selflessness if it is to make it to Indianapolis. The road to Lucas Oil Stadium will be a grueling one to say the least, but having Mays as Ketterer's counterpart on an electric offense makes things a little bit easier.
"Last year against Penn was the only time I saw any defense stop both of them," Gumm said. "Other than that, at least one of them has gone off for us. If they stop Chris, well, we've got Chase running all over the field. And if they stop Chase, we've got Chris having himself a night. If they make the right reads offensively, we're going to be real tough to stop offensively."