GIBSONTON — East Bay High fullback Chris Greene didn’t run a lot of passing drills during Wednesday’s afternoon practice in a field behind the Indians stadium’s bleachers. Every 10 or so reps, Greene moved next to quarterback Chris Carpentier and ran a release, slant route.
He made the catches in practice, but on the field Greene is there for one thing — punishment.
Generously listed at 5-foot-8, the 185-pound fullback’s height has little to do with his production, as he has been a driving force for East Bay (5-2, 1-0 in Class 7A-District 8) the past two seasons. Greene has more than 400 yards on the ground this year and a team-leading eight touchdowns, including four game-winners. The last decider came in the fourth quarter against Bloomingdale last Friday, after the Indians recovered a botched punt on the Bulls’ 19-yard line. Greene then strung together six carries, eventually punching it in from the 3.
Greene’s progression has been something coach Frank LaRosa said is indicative of the fight in his team. Greene’s 2012 season ended with a broken left leg and ruptured ligaments in his ankle, forcing him to miss the final two games of his junior season. Greene worked diligently after the injury, and although he was limited during spring workouts, LaRosa said his comeback has been inspiring.
“Chris is a warrior with the heart of a 6-foot-8, 400-pound guy,” LaRosa said. “The competitor he is, how mentally strong he’s had to be, he’s packed on muscle and speed after the injury.”
The steadiness of the Indians’ run-driven offense has a lot to do with the comfort level in East Bay’s backfield. Greene and Carpentier have a good working relationship, since the seniors have played together since the little-league football ranks with the East Bay Buccaneers at age 7.
“(Carpentier) is actually the guy who got me into tackle football,” Greene said. “Once I got into it, I immediately loved the contact.”
Carpentier, who has accounted for six touchdowns on the season (three passing, three rushing), said this team has high expectations for the rest of the year and is hoping to bring home a district title for the first time since 1973. The road to that title and postseason success runs through a steep challenge tonight as East Bay travels to face district foe Strawberry Crest (5-2, 2-0 in 7A-8).
“Being legendary, that’s all we are thinking about,” Carpentier said. “It’s been 40 years since our last district championship, and it just happens to mean that we have to beat Strawberry Crest, which is a very good team.”
In his ninth season coaching at East Bay, and his third year as head coach, LaRosa said the biggest part of his team’s success this season has been confidence.
“Confidence is one thing I believe starts in the weight room and spreads,” LaRosa said. “If I’m Chris Carpentier and I’m working next to Chris Greene in the weight room for three years, then when it’s Chris Greene’s time to carry the rock, I’m confident because I’ve seen the time and effort he has put in.
“Really, that’s what it’s come down to building that confidence.”
Consistency by the defense may be the most underrated part of East Bay’s success in 2013. The Indians have depth on the line, led by junior Marques Ford (7.5 sacks, 42 tackles), junior defensive lineman Eric Latortue (one of five team captains, who has six sacks and 39 tackles) and senior Kameron Daniels (3 sacks), while linebacker and captain Deondre Romeo leads the team with 76 tackles and junior defensive back Christian Leto has been a playmaker with two interceptions and a fumble recovery.
“We just do our job, none of us are selfish, and that’s what has helped us so far,” Ford said of the defense. “We are trying to stay humble, and it’s not about boasting or bragging, but we are together and where we are now is far away from where we were.”
For the Indians, though, it all seems to go back to LaRosa’s talk of legacy, and the team is starting to notice the change.
“I’ve been here for four years, through the rough times, through the ugly times, to now,” Carpentier said. “At this point, we have the whole school behind us, the whole community, and we’re looking to take them all on our shoulders with us.”