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Backfield tandem helps Nanticoke Area start 3-0

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Ron Bruza has an interesting dilemma on his hands when the Nanticoke Area offense takes the field.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s tough to consider it a problem. It’s more of a luxury that any football coach would love to have.

Bruza can hand the ball to bruising senior fullback Dawson Hughes, who has the ability to pick up the tough yards inside.

Or, Bruza can call on senior Eric Jeffries, who follows the path Hughes creates to pick up the big yards in the middle of the field or on the edge.

Either way you look at it, the two have formed the most dynamic one-two running punch in the Wyoming Valley Conference, and one that has the Trojans off to a 3-0 start heading into tonight’s showdown at Meyers.

Through three weeks, Jeffries leads the conference in rushing with 581 yards. Hughes is third on the list with 312.

“They both had a tremendous offseason and they worked really hard,” Bruza said. “Right now they are playing the way we expected them to be playing.”

Bruza has done a nice job balancing the carries between the two. The 6-foot, 215-pound Jeffries leads the team with 59 carries, while the 5-foot-8, 200-pound Hughes is right behind with 51.

Hughes came on the scene toward the end of his sophomore season after an ankle injury in the offseason limited his time. Jeffries began his high school career at Holy Redeemer, but transferred to Nanticoke Area prior to last season.

While Jeffries was new to the Nanticoke Area program, he grew up playing mini-football in Nanticoke so he had an understanding of the players around him. During their mini-football days, Hughes was the fullback while Jeffries was the tailback.

Only now the stakes are a bit higher.

“We had a connection before last year,” Hughes said. “Now, we are just picking up where we left off since he came from Redeemer.”

The learning curve was a bit steep for Jeffries last season. Coming from Holy Redeemer, he needed to learn the Wing-T. It was an interesting process to say the least.

“The offense took me a while,” Jeffries said. “Thankfully Dawson knows the offense inside and out. This year I had a full offseason with it. Now, I am fully acclimated to it.”

The two spent their offseason, along with the rest of the team, working out in the weight room. Jeffries and Hughes took a plyometric exercise class to help improve their flexibility.

But the key for both has been running behind an experienced offensive line.

The Trojans entered the season with high expectations. Not just internally, but externally the word was out that this had the potential to be a big season for Nanticoke Area.

The Trojans are coming off an appearance in the District 2 playoffs and the extra week of football has this year’s team wanting more of the same.

“We knew we had a target on our backs from last year,” Hughes said. “There were going to be some teams that knew we were getting better and there are some teams who didn’t think we are. We are just a lot more experienced than we have been.”

Jeffries came into the season wanting Nanticoke Area to have the best backfield in the conference. Up to this point, it is tough to argue against the production. But it’s something they won’t take for granted. There is a lot of football left to play and things can change in an instant.

“I think we are doing a good job so far,” Jeffries said. “The line has been playing phenomenal. We just have to keep taking it one game at a time. We can’t worry about weeks down the road. We just have to focus on the team we are playing.”

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Backfield tandem helps Nanticoke Area start 3-0