Losing a top offensive player would cripple many high school football teams.
Foothill just keeps winning.
Running back Connor Afoa went down with a knee injury Oct. 1 against Del Sol, but the fifth-ranked Falcons didn’t miss a beat, winning that game and another without their leading rusher.
Foothill (7-0, 3-0 Southeast League) will try to extend its unbeaten season when its hosts Henderson rival Basic (4-3, 1-2) at 7 p.m. today.
“We just had some personnel changes, but we keep moving right along,” Foothill coach Martin Redmond said.
Afoa had 524 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns through five games, while senior backup Miles Killebrew had only five carries. Despite his inactivity, Killebrew stepped in with 191 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries in wins over Del Sol (42-10) and Silverado (13-7).
“(Killebrew) is a really talented player. I think he would be a starter a lot of places, but he was backing up Connor Afoa, who’s pretty special,” Redmond said, though he noted that Killebrew is probably the Falcons’ fastest player.
“He’s really helped out the offense,” senior receiver Connor Waitkus said. “He brings a whole other dimension to the field. Afoa was a power back, but when we put Miles in the game, he’s more of a speed back and we can spread the field sideline to sideline.”
The passing game has also helped cover for Afoa’s absence. Senior quarterback Parker Riggin is among the area’s most efficient passers, completing 68.1 percent for 1,426 yards. He’s thrown for 13 TDs with only two interceptions.
“He’s a really smart kid, and he understands our offense extremely well, and he’s extremely accurate throwing the ball,” Redmond said. “You put those things together and you’re going to have a kid that can complete a lot of balls.”
Redmond said improved offensive line play has aided Riggin.
“Our line has been able to give him some time this year. That’s been a huge change for us,” Redmond said. “When we’re able to give him time, he’s pretty accurate and makes pretty good decisions.”
Waitkus (22 catches, 320 yards) is one of three receivers with 20 or more catches, giving Riggin plenty of targets. Darius Gates’ 25 catches lead the team, and he has 314 yards. Kyle Keplinger has been the big-play threat, with 23 catches for 398 yards and 11 touchdowns, including five rushing scores.
“Our offense is a controlled offense,” Waitkus said. “It’s one read to the next, and Parker just makes good reads. If our line gives him a couple seconds to throw the ball, it’s going to be a good play.”
Waitkus said having multiple receiving threats makes the team dangerous, especially with the speedy Killebrew in the backfield.
“You can’t really focus on anybody on our team,” Waitkus said. “Even though we have three receivers that have 20-plus catches, you’ve still got to worry about our running game with Killebrew. And you’ve just got to worry about our whole offense. We’re just a big threat.”
While Foothill has been streaking, Basic has been struggling. Since a 3-0 start, the 10th-ranked Wolves have lost three of four. But Redmond said his team certainly isn’t overlooking its rival.
“That’s not going to fool us, because we know what kind of rivalry this is,” Redmond said. “You just throw the records out the window and know it’s going to be a tough game. They’ve got some pretty talented kids over there.”
Foothill senior Keegan Buck, who leads the area with 13 sacks, said he’s excited to take on Basic.
“It’s always one of the highlights of the year to play them, just because the population got split up between the two schools,” Buck said. “It’s going to be a big game. I’m looking forward to it.”