erry Ford’s time has finally arrived.
After spending the past two seasons stuck behind standouts like Brandon Stansell and Ervin Crawford, the keys to the Rowland High School football team now belong to Ford. And the senior running back is doing his best not to disappoint.
Ford has rushed for 578 yards and five touchdowns this season. He also had a key kickoff return for a touchdown to the help the Raiders beat Rosemead on Sept. 15.
Rowland will take its 2-2 record to Los Altos (4-1, 0-1) on Friday night in a crucial Hacienda League game for both teams.
“This is his third year in the program and he’s made the most of it,” Rowland coach Craig Snyder said of Ford. “To his credit, he’s worked as hard as anyone in our program. I think it’s something he’s been working toward for four years.
“But Stansell and Crawford, those were two pretty good backs to behind.”
It’s not easy for a player of Ford’s talent to wait his turn on the depth chart. Ford, 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, combines the ability to be a physical runner with breakaway speed.
But it’s something else that Ford claims is his biggest strength.
“I feel that I can read the holes well and I can see the holes that my linemen put out,” Ford said. “The speed has kind of developed over the past few years. Track has kind of helped me out in that.”
Ford entered the season with plenty of pressure. Going back several years, Rowland has always
produced some of the best offensive skill talent in the area. When Crawford, quarterback Michael Ball and receiver Leonardo Freeman graduated this past school year, the spotlight was placed squarely on Ford, but so was the pressure.
“I felt some pressure about it, but I also felt happy about it,” Ford said. “I felt our team was more together as a whole. I felt that I could take on the pressure because as long as I have my team behind, I’ll be OK.”
Ford certainly hit the ground running this season. In Rowland’s season-opening victory over Nogales, he ran for 178 yards and two touchdowns. Ford followed that performance by running for 210 yards and two touchdowns in a loss to California.
Against Rosemead, Ford was bottled up by the Panthers’ staunch defense. But he still found a way to affect the outcome by taking a kickoff back 90 yards for a touchdown after Rosemead had scored on a 7-minute drive.
“He’s a competitor,” Snyder said. “They (Rosemead) controlled him pretty well in that game, but he still made his presence known. We told him we didn’t expect him to be like Mikey Ball, but we expected him to do his share, and he’s done it.”
With the word now out on Ford, it’s no secret that Hacienda League defensive coordinators will be aiming to put the clamps on Rowland’s workhorse. That’s a challenge that Ford is ready to take head on. With further success, he and Rowland could surprise everyone and make the postseason in what most thought was a rebuilding year.
“If we stay together, we can shock the world,” Ford said. “We’re in one of the hardest leagues, and I feel that if we work hard and trust our coaches, we’ll do fine.
“I feel I’m going to have to step my game up more. This is where it counts most.”