By Ronn Rowland
Phoenix Sports Writer
With the summer entering its second month on the calendar, Fort Gibson football coach James Singleton is using this time to evaluate who will be his No. 1 ball carrier in the fall.
Singleton is looking to fill the void left by the graduation of Jake Gandara, the 2012 All-Phoenix MVP. The list of replacements is long but there are four that Singleton says has the inside track – perhaps in combination form.
“Tristan Johnson, Kyle Martin, Micheal Ritchey and Jon Terronez will all rotate back there,” Singleton said. “Jon is kind of a little more of a balanced guy as far as a power back. Kyle and Micheal are more of a speedy, shifty kind of back. Each one has a different kind of skill set.”
Martin, a junior-to-be, threw his name into the hat with 111 yards on six carries, 92 of which came on his team’s final possession, during the Tigers’ Red-White spring game in May. Martin finished the 2012 season with 14 carries for 57 yards.
“I’ve been getting faster this summer and trying to work on my hands,” Martin said. “It feels pretty good to me to know that I can help out. The spring game made me feel better about myself.”
The top returning rusher for Fort Gibson is junior quarterback J.R. Singleton. The coach’s son amassed 674 yards on 75 carries. J.R. will be in his third season as the starting signal caller for Fort Gibson and his experience has him more comfortable at running the offense.
“He’ll command a little more of the offense,” said his dad. “He’ll be required to run the ball a little more. And we kind of anticipate him throwing the ball a little more this year.”
Johnson, also a junior-to-be, averaged 14.1 yards per carry in 2012 and gives the Tigers another option when it comes to moving the football.
“Tristan is more of a power back, between-the-tackles guy,” coach Singleton said. “He’s got good speed when he gets out in the open.”
Someone that could sneak up on the Tigers’ opponents is Ritchie. In 2012, the junior-to-be carried the ball nine times but averaged 5.8 yards per scamper.
“I just think that since I watched Jake play, hopefully others have too,” Ritchie said. “And hopefully we’ll be able to do the things he did.”
Which ever player distinguishes himself as earning the starting position, he must realize that there are several able bodies to take his place should his performance fall.
“Replacing Jake with one guy is kinda gonna be hard to do,” coach Singleton said. “We feel like we’ve got those guys and they’ll bring different kinds of elements to our offense that we think we can offset that kind of offense.”