PORT COQUITLAM — Gavin Whittingham made one last plea to his head coach Tom Kudaba last Friday in the late stages of the AAA No. 4-ranked Ravens eventual 34-0 win over Chilliwack’s visiting, No. 5-ranked G.W. Graham Grizzlies.
“I said ‘Coach, I think I’m close to the record,’ and he said ‘OK, you get one chance to go for it.’”
Whittingham, the 5-foot-9, 185-pound senior running back, lined up in the backfield and carried the football for a 40-yard gain.
Alas, Whittingham finished with 38 carries for 298 yards and four touchdowns, numbers which reflected the tough yards he got between the tackles en route to honours this week as a Varsity Letters’ B.C. High School Football Player of the Week.
Sure, in the final tally he turned up two yards short of a milestone 300, and somewhere in the region of about 50 yards shy of the all-time single-game record set in the school’s 2016’s Subway Bowl championship season by current Guelph Gryphons running back Jeremie Kankolongo.
“I used to train with him,” Whittingham said of Kankolongo, and I told him that one day I would break his record.”
That would be good news for a Ravens’ team, which with two more weekends of regular-season play remaining, sit at 5-0 and as the current favourites to win the Eastern Conference regular season crown.
Whittingham, who returned to Terry Fox this season after spending the COVID-cancelled 2020 campaign back east at a prep school, had been having a very solid opening to his senior varsity career this season.
Yet according to coach Kudaba, who spent his CFL career as a guard and centre within the interior reaches of the offensive line, it wasn’t until Friday that he witnessed Whittingham put everything together as a running back by letting his blocking develop and letting it take him where he needed to go, even if it meant those slogging yards up the gut.
“For the first four games he carried the ball well, but this was the first time he ran the ball in the trenches, and because of that we were able to dominate,” said Kudaba.
“When I remember him as a JV player, he was always wanting to break it outside, but now he is starting to understand,” Kudaba added of his instincts and ability to run between the tackles.
Although he got a little lonely away from home last season at prep school, he says “I loved it because I had the experience of being independent for a whole year.”
The lockdown brought him back west and after having his appeal to play this season granted by B.C. School Sports, he has hit the ground running.
And about those 38 carries potentially being a bit too much of a workload?
“I am feeling a little sore today but honestly, it feels great,” he said of wearing a running back’s ultimate badge of courage.
“I have played on run-heavy teams my entire life so I am used to it,” he continued. “In 2019, at JV, we played Centennial and of our 62 offensive plays, I touched it 57 times.”
So just keep handing him the rock.
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