By Ronn Rowland
Phoenix Sports Writer
In Greek mythology, a hydra is a serpent-like beast with many heads and if you cut one off, two or more grow back.
That is one way to describe the tailback position for the Fort Gibson Tigers in 2013 with Michael Richey, Chris Walker and Kyle Martin picking up the numbers left vacant because of the graduation of 2012 Phoenix Player of the Year Jake Gandara.
“They’re doing well,” said Fort Gibson coach James Singleton. “Their yards per carry are real high. Just like we said during the summer, they all three have a different skill set they bring to the table. And we try to utilize all those guys.
“Richey is kind of the in-between guy – he’s a little bit of a power back and has some speed. Walker is a leaner guy, a slasher-type runner, that also runs well between the tackles. Martin is kind of our speed guy – he’s a little lighter and has nice hands out of the backfield.”
While J.R. Singleton, the Tigers’ quarterback and the coach’s son, leads the way with 418 yards rushing on 53 carries and eight touchdowns, all three have made sure that opposing defenses can’t just gang up on J.R., something Richey picked up from his predecessor.
“Jake is an exceptionally good tailback,” Richey said. “I just really watched him and what he does. I think it helped me out with running the ball.”
Last Friday against Tulsa Rogers, Singleton led the attack with 112 yards and three touchdowns. Richey and Walker had 11 carries each with Richey running for 98 yards and one touchdown while Walker finished with 87 yards. While Walker also had Gandara as a mentor, he has his other teammates to draw inspiration from.
“Michael is a great, talented athlete,” Walker said. “They just throw me in there because he needs a break now and then. I just had to show them that I was ready to bring it up to the elite level.”
The diversity has been so effective in leading the Tigers to a 3-1 record, 1-0 in District 4A-4 heading into their game at 7:30 p.m. at Broken Bow, and a No. 8 ranking in the Associated Press Class 4A poll that the coach has even thought of instituting an old formation – the wishbone.
“We could probably get away with it with the guys we got right now,” the coach said. “Coach (Greg) Whiteley would be chomping at the bit to do it.”
Having the three tailbacks that can handle the load also keeps the Tigers’ quarterback fresher.
“Obviously, we don’t want (J.R.) to have to carry the ball 20 times a game,” James Singleton said. “We’d like it around 10-12 carries a game. We think that’s a good number for him with the load he has throwing the ball. So having those guys back there helps us out tremendously.”
And with so much talent at one position, Richey knows that jealousy is not a factor.
“We’re pretty well rounded,” he said. “We just have to hold on to the ball and not be scared to run.”