Aubrey RBs surging with share-the-wealth running game

La’Braylon Bell’s original plan for the Aubrey football team in 2022 was to get experience on the junior-varsity level in preparation for getting promoted to the varsity in the future. The week of Sept. 12 changed those plans.

That week Bell and his Aubrey teammates found out an injury suffered by star running back Braylon Colgrove was more serious than it first appeared and his season was over. So were Bell’s days on junior varsity.

“I got promoted because of what happened to Braylon,” Bell said. “Next man up.”

When it comes to the next-man-up battle cry for Aubrey running backs it means a lot of them, sometimes approaching double-digit players carrying the ball for the Chaparrals in a game. This season that strategy has been tested without Colgrove, but for Aubrey backs such as Emerson Cagle, Kai Bagley and Bell, it’s an exam they have aced.

Cagle, Bagley and Bell lead Aubrey’s share-the-wealth approach to running the ball. Cagle has 1,067 yards and 13 touchdowns rushing while Bagley has 875 yards and 13 touchdowns. Bell has 823 yards with nine touchdowns.

The list of those making significant contributions keeps on going, with 10 current players having at least 10 carries this season and nine of them scoring touchdowns. This was embodied in Aubrey’s 43-41 four-overtime win over Center in a Class 4A Division II area playoff on Saturday in which the game-winning two-point conversion was scored by Wesley Huber. Aubrey (10-2) – ranked no. 3 in The Dallas Morning News’ Class 4A/3A area poll and No. 10 in the Associated Press’ 4A-II state poll – will take on Texarkana Pleasant Grove (10-2) in a Region II semifinal at 2 pm Friday at Wildcat Stadium in Paris.

Aubrey is riding a nine-game winning streak entering the game against Pleasant Grove (ranked No. 7 in the AP state poll) averaging 55.6 points a game in that run. Aubrey has made this run without Colgrove, who rushed for 2,129 yards and 31 touchdowns last year, but suffered a knee injury in the season opener against Sunnyvale.

Similar to Bell, Cagle had to adjust to a change in his role in Week 2 when Aubrey took on Anna.

“I was the starting running back for the Anna game. That was my first start,” Cagle said. “I just knew I had to step up and have a bigger leadership role.”

Bell said one reason Aubrey has been successful running the ball is that they have been preparing for this since middle school. The roots of the strategy go back considerably further than that under coach Keith Ivy.

Ivy said he picked up the strategy of having a lot of running backs while an assistant under his father James, who was the head coach at Sanger from 1989 to 2001. Keith Ivy has been the head coach at Aubrey since 2014.

Ivy said one reason he has stuck with this strategy is some of his players play both ways, such as Bagley also playing free safety. Ivy’s staff also tweaked the strategy with more spread formations in the past three seasons. Since then Aubrey is 38-13, including a school-record for wins in a 12-2 season in 2021 and an 8-3 postseason record.

The addition of spread formations add to a deep playbook of deception Aubrey uses for his rushing plays. In one game the formations can vary from traditional two-back and I formations, to vintage wing-t and wishbone lineups to more recent read-option and flexbone attacks.

“We have about 400 formations in our system,” Ivy said. “We like to be able to not run the same play in a game, but of course if it’s working we may do it.”

Ivy said there was an adjustment period of two or three weeks after Colgrove was hurt. Aubrey almost beat Anna, which is currently 12-0 and a Class 4A Division I Region II semifinalist, but Anna won 39-34 on an 86-yard touchdown pass on the game’s final play. The next week however, Aubrey fell flat and had a season low in points in a 29-14 loss to Arlington Seguin.

“I don’t think we had recovered from the Anna game against Seguin. We weren’t really focused on the next game,” Cagle said. “I think we learned that we need to respect all of our opponents.”

That respect has led to excellence ever since. Until the Center game Aubrey had defeated every opponent by at least 21 points, and even the thriller against Center had the respect. Cagle said the Center game was Aubrey’s best game of the year because everyone on the team did their job, a critical part in a game decided on one play.

That kind of effort may need to be repeated against Pleasant Grove, which has allowed an average of 16.3 points per game and features defensive lineman Victor Shaw, a UT San Antonio commit.

“Pleasant Grove is a very physical team,” Cagle said. “We have to come out with a better mentality and to be more physical than they are.”

Colgrove’s 2022 season did have good news recently. Earlier this month he verbally committed to the University of Oklahoma.

While the current Aubrey squad is on a quest for its first state title, the future could be even better. Cagle is a junior and Bell is a sophomore.

Yet as a strategy that took years for its ultimate success to come around merges with a promising future, Cagle and Bell both said what happened to Colgrove should provide focus on what is going on in the present.

“I think what happened to Braylon, and the Anna game, taught us that,” Cagle said. “It really does come down to what we do on each play.”

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