Jerrell Agnew is not a big, bruising running back or the type of back that will bowl over a linebacker as he batters his way across the line of scrimmage. Opposing defensive coordinators would be more likely to describe him as slippery, elusive, or flat out impossible to stop.
Whatever the approach, Agnew, a 5-foot-9, 150-pound senior running back at La Jolla High School, is getting the job done for the Vikings, and getting it done rather well.
Entering the week of Oct. 8, in five games Agnew had carried the ball 84 times for 516 yards, an average of nearly 130 yards per game. He had caught seven passes for 83 yards and also had 345 return yards to his name. Even more impressive, though, is his nose for the end zone - his total of 12 touchdowns (10 rushing, one receiving and one on a kick return) led the Western League and was exactly 75 percent of La Jolla’s offensive output this season.
He had helped the Vikings to a 3-2 record as they prepared to face the meat of their league schedule.
“Jerrell has some quickness once he gets into the open,” La Jolla coach Dave Ponsford said. “But he also runs the ball very well - he’s got good moves. He lets the blocks get set up, and once he gets past the blocks, he has the ability to scoot a little bit. He’s just an instinctive type of back, and has those moves that you love to see a running back have.”
Thanks in part to Agnew’s play, La Jolla is off to a good start to the 2007 season, with wins over Valley Center, University City and Brawley. The Vikings’ two losses have each come by only a touchdown. Last year, they started 2-6 before righting the ship a bit toward the end of the season. With an improved offensive line this year, the Vikings have been able to do more on the ground than in years past. Whereas fullback Ja’Rodd Watson carried much of the offensive load last year, he has been able to move back into more of a blocking role in 2007, opening holes for Agnew.
And the combination of the two backs - Watson had 245 yards and two touchdowns in the team’s first five games - has made the Vikings’ running game harder to contain.
“They complement each other very nicely,” Ponsford said.
Agnew scored just seven touchdowns last season, but has set a pace this season that already has him in the top 10 for touchdowns scored in La Jolla’s record book. The record of 30 was set in 1991 by E.J. Watson, an assistant coach at La Jolla who went on to play at Colorado State and is also Ja’Rodd Watson’s older brother - and gives Agnew something to shoot for.
“I just took it upon myself that I needed to have a big year this year to put our team in position so we can win CIF,” Agnew said. “Our line has stepped up big early in the season, so that’s what has really jumpstarted my season.”
Agnew also stars on La Jolla’s varsity boys’ basketball team and runs the 100 meters, the 200 and the 4 x100 relay on the track team in the spring. He is a rare three-sport athlete who excels in all seasons.
Ponsford loves having him on his team for some of the intangibles he brings to the field.
“He’s a real talented athlete,” Ponsford said. “He’s not a big kid, but pound-for-pound, he’s one of the toughest kids we’ve had at our school. He plays some defensive back, and boy, he delivers a blow when he comes up and hits guys.”
That toughness could carry over to the next level. Agnew worked extremely hard on his offseason conditioning, often arriving at the gym by 6 a.m. on summer mornings, with the goal of getting himself noticed by college recruiters this fall. He doesn’t know where he might end up, but hopes to get a chance to play in college. His size could be a determining factor.
“I think he has a chance to play in college, though I don’t know at what position - it could be at running back or receiver or defensive back,” Ponsford said. “There may be some schools that shy away from him because of his size, but he is getting some interest, and I think he’s got a chance. He certainly has the ability.”