NORTH AUGUSTA — North Augusta has produced a string of top-flight running backs in recent years, including DeMarcus Rouse, Vinny Miller and DeVonte Pressley. For the most part, those backs have been the Yellow Jackets primary ball carriers.

It isn’t a one-man job this season. Because of the transfer of senior Dashawn Barnes – from Rock Hill High School – along with returning senior Willie McCloud, the Jackets have two feature backs this season.

While the two are rarely on the field the same time, head coach Dan Pippin said having a second reliable option at running back has benefited his offense.

“I think it’s good because we’re rushing for around 150, 200 a game,” he said. “They’re rotating, so I think it’s pretty good.”

McCloud seemed to be the heir apparent to Pressley last year, stepping in on multiple occasions to spell Pressley and even take the reins when the starter was banged up. Because of that, McCloud said that sharing with Barnes required some time for adjustment.

“You know, I had to get used to it, but it’s all fun,” McCloud said. “As long as we’re winning, it really doesn’t matter what the stats look like.”

The duo has seen their share of winning as well as individual success with the 5-0 Jackets. McCloud has 585 yards and 10 touchdowns on 81 carries for the year, behind only Wagener-Salley’s Eric Corley for the area lead in all three categories. Barnes isn’t far behind with 400 yards and six touchdowns on 61 carries, and that yardage is good for seventh in the area.

While the two seniors are mainly focused team goals, they admitted that they compare numbers after each game.

“I usually get the upper hand,” McCloud said amid protests from Barnes. “I’m kind of more shifty … I get by people.”

Barnes said that, friendly ribbing aside, McCloud has been instrumental in his learning the North Augusta offense well enough to be a major contributor.

“When I first came here, I didn’t know what to do. So he was just teaching me what to do, where I’m supposed to go and everything,” Barnes said.

The duo said that the passing prowess of junior quarterback Trib Reece – easily tops in the area at 66-for-94 for 1,048 yards and 13 touchdowns – opens things up for their running attack. He showed another facet of his game last Friday with a 96-yard touchdown run. The pair declined to take credit for helping Reece with his running game, saying it was, “all Trib.”

“Trib’s been wanting to run the ball for the longest, and they finally gave him the chance, and he made up for it,” McCloud said.

With perhaps a third head to the running monster at North Augusta and the established threat through the air, McCloud had blunt expectations for the offense going forward. He said the only thing keeping the team – averaging better than 46 points a game – from its full potential has been correctable mistakes.

“There’s no reason we should punt the ball,” he said. “We just want to get better and better and keep scoring.”

Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University and has been at the Aiken Standard since June 2010.