When Creston/O-M senior Adam Baker rushed for 269 yards, including a 77-yard touchdown, last week against Winterset, he ran his season total to 1,051 yards, with at least two games remaining.
Not bad for a converted guard from the 2012 lineup.
Prior to last year, the 5-11, 185-pounder played running back, so the duties aren’t unfamiliar. His speed is underrated, having had success in track as a sprinter as a younger athlete. Nonetheless, it’s a strong varsity debut in the rugged District 1 competition.
“Adam runs the ball really hard,” coach Brian Morrison said. “The guys up front and (fullback) Trevor Frain have done a great job blocking, as well.”
Baker has seven touchdowns for the season. Frain, often the feature back in the direct-snap “Tank” formation, has tallied nine rushing touchdowns while compiling 314 yards. Quarterback Brandon Phipps has two rushing TDs with 123 yards, and Conner Pals has contributed 80 yards on 19 carries.
But Baker is the clear leader of the team’s ground attack. By surpassing the 1,000-yard mark, he joins an exclusive club of runners in the era of Dick Bergstrom (33 years) and Morrison (four years) as coaches.
The most recent was last year, as quarterback Luke Neitzel ran for 1,260 yards while also passing for 708 yards. Neitzel came close two other times, running for 954 and passing for 953 as a junior, and running for 890 as a sophomore.
Unofficially, there have been six other 1,000-yard rushers during those years.
Bergstrom’s first playoff team in 1985 included running back Todd Downing, who rushed for 1,010 and 980 yards his final two seasons.
Dennis Shaw ran for 1,200 yards in seven games his junior year in 1988, and followed with 1,142 yards the following season, when the team lost a playoff berth on a coin flip.
Jed Gammell was part of a powerful rushing attack for an 8-2 team in 1992, finishing with just over 1,000 yards. That squad also included Kasey Downing with 800 yards and running threat B.J. Hellyer at quarterback. Hellyer split running back duties with Gammell the previous year.
Will Carroll rushed for 1,071 yards as a junior in 1994 and 960 yards as a senior.
Tyler Hanson’s knee injury problems halted what appeared to be a record-setting career as a Panther running back. He battled back from that injury, however, to finish with 2,812 career yards on seasons of 822, 890 and 1,100.
Twin brothers Gabe and Zach Stofferahn occupied the Panther backfield for most of three seasons in the early 2000s. As a sophomore running back in 2000, Gabe ran for 1,236 yards. He ran for 800 yards as a quarterback a year later, while Zach compiled 900 yards at running back.
The following season, Gabe started out at running back, but soon switched back to quarterback, while Zach, who also played cornerback on defense, re-assumed running back duties. That year, Gabe ran for 725 yards and Zach rushed for 895.
So, over those two seasons the brothers combined for 3,320 rushing yards.
Neitzel and Baker conclude the list of eight Panther 1,000-yard rushers during this 37-year segment of Panther football.
In earlier years of Panther football, Hal Sadler rushed for a combined 2,651 yards in 1930 and ‘31. Joining Sadler on that 1931` team was Warren “Skeets” Halton, who added another 1,601 yards.
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