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Running his way into the spotlight

Rugby’s Kuntz emerging as one of the region’s top backs

September 25, 2009
Matt Mullally

Rugby's Eric Kuntz wasn't among the names of returning running backs from Region 2 getting attention this preseason.

The junior is now.

Kuntz has rushed for 616 yards through the Panthers' first four games and has emerged as one of the best backs in the eight-team region.

He's shown the toughness to fight off tacklers for extra yards and the speed to outrun defensive backs in the open field.

"He's a gamer,'' said Rugby coach Scott Grochow. "He's stepped up his play this year and certainly has that ability to accelerate through the hole."

Kuntz is quick to credit his blockers for his success so far. "I wouldn't have half of those yards without them,'' he said. "They've provided me with good running lanes."

Running the ball effectively requires patience, awareness and practice. Eric and his fellow running backs go through a series of drills each week to prepare for Friday nights.

Kuntz said the focus is on finding the holes created by his blockers while at the same time seeing where the defenders are converging.

And do it in a split second. Once through the hole and into the open field then instinct takes over.

"I guess than it's just flat out running,'' Kuntz said. "Sometimes you have to juke (a defender) or run through them."

Eric doesn't mind the opportunity once in a while to lower his shoulder into a defensive back, but most of the time he's been able to outrun them.

He's gained 100 or more yards a game and is averaging just over seven yards a carry, but he's had his share of some big gains, including touchdown runs of 31, 43 and 50 yards.

And those big plays do a lot to swing momentum on Rugby's side. "It definitely gets the team fired up," he said.

Kuntz's success certainly has gotten the attention of the opposition and part of the game plan for future opponents is to slow No. 22 down.

So far, teams haven't been able to do that, and the Panthers are banking they won't.



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