A pair of local products have earned themselves playing time at the college level so far this fall.
West Virginia running back Tony Mathis and Clemson tailback Kobe Pace, both former Cedartown Bulldogs, have yielded good outputs in their limited opportunities on the field.
Both athletes started the season as backups in their respective offensive backfields but have made the most of their chances.
Mathis, a redshirt freshman for the Mountaineers, has played in five games this fall. The elusive speedster has rushed for 55 yards on 18 carries so far this season. His only touchdown of the year came in West Virginia’s season-opening win over Eastern Kentucky on Sept. 12. Mathis found the end zone on a 3-yard run late in the 56-10 victory.
As it stands now, Mathis is still competing for playing time among a crowded running back room in Morgantown. The Cedartown alum might not take over the starting role by the end of the 2020 campaign, but his efforts should have him in a good position to be a regular contributor next season. West Virginia (5-3) plays at no. 13 Iowa State this Saturday.
Kobe Pace was not expected by many to be playing a ton for the powerhouse Clemson Tigers as a true freshman, but the former all-region rusher has defied all odds.
The power back has rushed for 75 yards on 18 attempts and has reeled in five passes for 26 yards. Pace’s first collegiate touchdown came via a shovel pass from quarterback Hunter Helmes. Pace caught it at the 7-yard line and barreled into the end zone in Clemson’s 73-7 win in Atlanta over Georgia Tech on Oct. 17.
When Pace signed with the Tigers, he was in a strange predicament. Despite being one of the top running backs in the nation in his recruiting class, Clemson just so happened to sign a blue-chip tailback in Florida native Demarckus Bowman in the same class.
Bowman has since transferred to the University of Florida, paving the way for more playing time for Pace beyond this year. 8-1 Clemson, the No. 4 team in the country, travels to Virginia Tech this weekend.
Another Polk County product on a Division I roster is Rockmart’s Deacon Allen. The defensive lineman is a freshman for the University of Akron, a member of the Mid-American Conference. Allen is a true freshman and has yet to accrue any statistics as a Zip. Akron, 0-4 on the year, hosts Bowling Green State on Saturday at 2 p.m.
In recruiting news, Cedartown senior all-around athlete Jayden Johnson made a switch last week in his collegiate choice by decommitting from South Carolina and then committing to the Gamecocks’ SEC rival Arkansas two days later.
South Carolina fired head coach Will Muschamp on Nov. 15 after a 2-5 start in the coach’s fifth year at the helm.
Of course, this fall is only the beginning of college football. Many conferences and teams in different divisions, such as Division II, Division III, NAIA, and the NJCAA, are planning to hit the gridiron again come spring. That will allow for many more local guys to play the sport they love this season.