It’s definitely the year of the back in the Western Big Six.
Not only does Quincy have Division I recruit Jirehl Brock, who rushed for more than 1,300 yards a year ago back and has rushed for 932 yards so far this season. But five of the six schools have at least one back who is well on his way to rushing for at least 700 yards for the season, likely far more.
Alleman has junior quarterback Sam Mattecheck (572 yards) and senior fullback John West (406); Rock Island has sophomore Davion Wilson (599) and junior quarterback Iian Purvis (360); Galesburg has Kobe Ramirez (775); Quincy has Brock, Adonte Crider (321) and Jake Kelley (291) while Moline has the two headed-monster known as senior Eddie Doran (673) sophomore Aboubacar Barry (489).
“It’s crazy to see throughout the conference all these guys be so successful within their system, whatever it is,” said Moline coach Mike Morrissey. “When I was at Desert Mountain in Arizona, we couldn’t find a running back for anything. We get here … and we have a bunch of guys.”
Included in that Moline group is the top returning rusher from a year ago, senior Marcus Atnip, who is spending the most of his time at linebacker this year.
Leading the way for Moline (4-2, 3-0) is Doran, who rushed for 301 yards last week, which included touchdown runs of 57, 57 and 80 yards in a win over Rock Island.
Doran missed a practice during fall camp that helped jar open the door for Barry, and the result is Moline really has two starters.
It’s not difficult splitting the time, both agree.
“Me and ‘Boubie,’ we’re friends,” Doran said. “We don’t really fight about it. Coach puts us in evenly, and we know we are both capable.”
“We both had special talents and whenever they need any of us, we are both ready to go,” Barry said, noting he was surprised to get any big chance at all, this being his sophomore season. “He’s a senior… He deserves it. He’s been working hard.”
Morrissey likes how the pair gets along, agreeing often ahead of time to take turns on the scout team reps.
"They really communicate well with each other and root for each other,” Morrissey said, “That’s made it easy for both of them.”
It helps that their styles contrast, even though both are capable of breaking off the long run.
Morrissey noted how Doran used to always want to bounce everything outside. But the back's time on the sidelines has been educational.
“I think maybe actually seeing how Barry set up blocks a little bit and was a little more patient in his vision with things,” Morrissey said. “Maybe that helped Eddie a little bit. It helped him understand, ‘Hey, if I am a little bit more patient with the blocking schemes up front, I can kind of get a better feel for what I need to do.'
“When he sees it, he turns it on. There’s no doubt about it.”
Barry's speed and patience have been added benefits to the Maroon offense.
“Both are great complements to what we do in our system,” Morrissey said.
Doran knows it’s his senior year but because Aboubacar is so capable he understands why they split the time.
He also credits Moline’s new offense with helping both backs.
“It really leaves us a lot of wiggle room for a dynamic back,” he said. “With the offense Morrissey has given us, the type of running back Boubie is and I am it gives us a lot of breathing room, and I am really liking it.”
Next up is Quincy — also 3-0 in the Big Six — at Browning Field Friday. A year ago, Moline lost to the Blue Devils, 72-50 and in the year of the back, the scoreboard could be lit up once again.
“It’s going to be a game of offenses,” Doran said. “It’s going to be the Quincy offense versus the Moline offense.”