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413 yards? Not a fluke

The exploits of Michael Holmes were first posted here after the Harrisonburg junior running back rushed for 390 yards and eight touchdowns in the first half of a 69-27 victory over Lee-Staunton. Five weeks later, not only was that game not a fluke for Holmes, but the 6-foot, 195-pounder appears to be playing out the gridiron version of “The Natural” this season.

What struck me most about Holmes’ breakthrough performance was that Harrisonburg Coach Tim Sarver took Holmes out of the game early in the third quarter (with Harrisonburg ahead 56-27), with Holmes already at 413 yards, just seven short of the school’s rushing record -- and 87 shy of the Virginia single-game mark. In an era where countless athletes seek to make names for themselves through any endeavor, Holmes and Harrisonburg were content to let an amazing – but not record-setting feat – stand on its own, rather than push for the record books. “We’re not looking for records here,” Sarver said this week.

Similarly, Holmes did not play the second half of the previous week’s 48-20 victory over Rockbridge, after he ran 12 times for 273 yards, and also took a seat at halftime two weeks later, when he rushed for 265 yards and five touchdowns on 11 carries in a 43-7 victory over Waynesboro.

Through eight games, Holmes has rushed for 2,170 yards, 30 touchdowns, and averages 13.4 yards per carry. In addition to the three games where he sat out the second half, Holmes also played just one quarter of a 34-12 victory over Fort Defiance on Oct. 9 because of the flu. He has missed nine quarters of action either due to illness or sportsmanship, which should give a greater appreciation of his accomplishments.
The Virginia single-season rushing record is 3,319 yards by Thomas Jones of Powell Valley in 1994, but that was set in 14 games. Warren County’s H.B. Banjoman broke the 10-game record in 2005 when he gained 2,607 yards. Holmes is on pace to break Banjoman’s mark, and, given Harrisonburg’s 7-1 record, he should get a chance to play in the postseason.

And before this season – in fact, before the Lee-Staunton game – nobody outside of Harrisonburg had heard of Holmes, which is stunning, given the attention paid to recruiting, both by colleges and the media. That's where the real Roy Hobbs element of Holmes' story comes out. Anyone with an ounce of potential is documented somewhere, but Sarver said Holmes had to fill out recruiting questionnaires from colleges last spring just to put himself on the radar. Even Holmes’ offensive coordinator, Joe Carrico, told the Roanoke Times last February that Holmes had “a chance” of playing Division I college football. Safe to say, now, those chances are looking pretty good.

Sarver said that since Holmes’ 413-yard game, the school has been bombarded with phone calls and mail from recruiters, including Virginia, Virginia Tech and Clemson. Sarver, the sixth-winningest Virginia coach with 254 victories at three schools since 1971, said “the state schools” have been the most pressing, adding that Virginia’s FCS (Division I-AA) schools are also hot after Holmes. Sarver said Holmes runs the 40 yard dash in 4.47 seconds, and has “an ability to read holes better than anyone we’ve had, and a great ability to cut back.”

“His performance in that game obviously opened a lot of eyes,” Sarver said. “He’s also an excellent receiver, but he’s only got two catches.” Adding in a little laugh, Sarver said, “but it’s not like we’ve had to throw it to him much.”

By Alan Goldenbach  |  October 27, 2009; 2:38 PM ET
Categories:  VHSL , state records  
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