NORTH DELTA — The old saying in sports is that there is no ‘I’ in team, and in a manner of speaking, no one lives more to the credo than Seaquam’s Christian Carlon-Diaz.
Look up the star running back on the Seahawks’ team roster which is part of bchighschoolfootball.com‘s official website, and for the past three seasons, there has been an ‘I’ missing in the spelling of his first name.
“It’s all good, though,” the dynamic 5-foot-10, 185-pound senior explains over the phone during lunch break earlier this week. “But it is ‘Christian’ not ‘Christan’.”
Yes, Christian, as in Christian McCaffrey, and while he doesn’t carry with quite the same potency as the Carolina Panthers’ running back, he has nonetheless been having the same kind of impact this season at the B.C. high school level.
Through five games heading into Saturday’s mammoth 12 p.m. AAA East clash in Sunshine Hills against Surrey’s visiting and favoured Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers, Carlon-Diaz has carried 67 times for 668 yards, averaging 134 yards per game, and 9.97 yards per carry, all while finding the end zone eight times.
And while the yardage total trails only Abbotsford Panthers’ senior star Jalem Catlin in the Triple A ground race, the most important part of Carlon-Diaz numbers is the fact that they most accurately reflect the style and the attitude of these 2019 Seahawks, a team built on offence around the chemistry, the cohesion and the coachability of its offensive line.
“I love the feeling you get when your offensive line makes a great hole and you just hit it and get to the end zone,” says Carlon-Diaz, 17. “And to me, it’s a great moment because we have all chased success together, so getting to cheer with them, the guys who protect me, is very special.”
Like we said, maybe there really is no ‘I’ in Christian.
A NEW OFFENCE FINDS ITS FLOW
Seahawks’ head coach Navin Chand made about as substantial a staff addition over the offseason as there was anywhere in B.C. high school football when he brought in Kevin Phillips to become the team’s new offensive coordinator and co-head coach.
Aficionados will no doubt remember Phillips’ 2009 team at Coquitlam’s Centennial Secondary, where he took the team’s offence to a new level by installing the team’s best overall athlete, current B.C Lions’ wide receiver Lemar Durant, at quarterback.
Durant’s read-and-react skills, along with the excellence of running back Nehemie Kankolongo proved to be a dynamite duo, and in that season’s Triple A Subway Bowl title game win over W.J. Mouat, each player rushed for over 200 yards.
A full decade later, the 2019 Seahawks are not designed to the same specs as the 2009 Centaurs, yet Phillips has helped bring a new identity to the fore.
Left tackle Evan Rawlick, left guard Angad Grewal, centre Ishaan Chand, right guard Siraj Dhaliwal and right tackle Jaskirat Sanghera have embraced the new schemes involved in a switch to a more zone philosophy this season, and so too has the rest of a balanced offence highlighted by Carlon-Diaz and fellow RB Justin Eng, quarterback Jay Mather and receiver Brandon Johnson.
In last Saturday’s 28-14 league win over Terry Fox, Carlon-Diaz showed just how comfortable he has become in the new offence some five games into the season, carrying 25 times for 302 yards and three touchdowns. On the day, Seaquam totalled 539 yards of total offence.
HOW TO SPELL ‘TEAMMATE’
As Carlon-Diaz about his journey, and he will tell you that at times, he was filled with self-doubt. Lately, however, he’s had am empowering feeling every time he’s taken a hand-off from Mather.
“I used to stop and run laterally,” he says. “Growing up as a little guy, I had fear because I was unsure about so many things. And I was a crazy-hyper kid who would just go without reading my blocks.
“But as I have begun to take it to the next level, I have developed my mindset,” he continued. “Now, I make my reads, and I work on getting straight to the end zone. One quick cut, and go. I’ve always had speed and acceleration, but now I run hard and I think positive.”
Adds Chand: “Our last game, he was doing something he hadn’t been doing until the past few games, and that is running through guys and breaking tackles.”
Leaning on past Seaquam greats at running back like Jalen Philpot and Mark Lego, and embracing everything he is learning from his coaching staff, Carlon-Diaz has met the potential at the senior varsity level which he showed as a talented JV.
Of course, his versatility is just as impressive.
Playing at a cornerback spot within a defence led by teammate and star middle linebacker Eng, Carlon-Diaz came up with a pair of interceptions in last week’s win over Terry Fox.
“To be honest, I just love playing football,” he says when asked if his future is more as an offensive player than a defensive one. “I haven’t even figured out what my primary position is.”
The best part of all, however, is appreciating the total football player he has become.
So go ahead and spell Christian Carlon-Diaz’s name any way you like… the only thing he’ll ever correct you on is the fact that there is no ‘I’ in team.
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