Column: Just try to keep up

Published 1:53 pm Saturday, August 23, 2003

By Staff
Keeping your eye on the ball may be a challenge this fall if you're planning on watching some football games at Niles or Brandywine.
The reasons for your difficulty will be wearing No. 32 or No. 10, hopefully that will make them easier to keep track of.
To be more precise, Niles senior running back Lonnie Jones and Brandywine senior tailback Billy Syrette are going to give fans quite a show over the next few months.
Barring injuries, Jones and Syrette figure to be among the most exciting ball carriers in southwest Michigan.
Each has been toting the ball for his respective varsity team for a number of years. Jones debuted with the Niles varsity team as a sophomore while Syrette made the leap to Brandywine's varsity as a freshman.
Their individual talents alone are not the only reason these two speedsters are primed for a great season. Each plays on a team that could be headed for incredible seasons and will surely be making it easier for Jones and Syrette to gain yardage.
Niles has been to the playoffs the past two seasons and returns plenty of experience on its offensive line. That's good news for Jones, who despite being considered one of the premier backs in the area has yet to gain 1,000 yards in a single season.
The Vikings have a beefed-up schedule this season and it will be a challenge for them to pick up the six wins they need to reach the playoffs for a third straight year.
That puts even more pressure on Jones. But his cohort in the backfield, fellow senior Karyce Pulliam, along with some newcomers that show promise, will be trying to make life easier on Jones this season.
Pulliam filled in brilliantly for Jones during a mid-season injury last year and will be a concern for opposing defenses this fall. Newcomers Tyler Yost and James Edwards will also do their best to take the attention off Jones.
Syrette is also a member of a squad coming off a strong season. Brandywine made the playoffs for just the second time last year and many of the members of that squad are back in search of a third playoff berth.
Syrette gained more than 1,200 yards as a junior and will surely be looking to match that performance again this year.
He, too, will be helped by a player who is new to the Brandywine ball club. Rob DeVerna, who was a member of Edwardsburg's 2002 playoff squad, transferred to Brandywine over the summer and is sure to be a threat for the Bobcats in the backfield.
Syrette is also aided by third-year quarterback Evan Smith who is almost an equal threat to carry the ball. Smith's best way to help Syrette this year, however, will be throwing the ball. Syrette will be one of Smith's favorite targets, but other receivers will also do their best to force defenses to forget about Syrette.
Niles coach Dave Janicki and Brandywine coach Jim Myers are blessed to have such talent in their backfields this season, but both are aware of the danger of becoming one-dimensional.
Both will keep diversity as his greatest offensive weapon and make the opposing defense try to figure out where the ball is going.
So just try to keep up.