There may not be a better backfield tandem in the PAC 5 this fall than Atascadero High’s Marc Martin and RJ Reusche.
The two senior running backs have helped the Greyhounds open the 2015 season with four wins in their first five games, including Friday’s 31-14 handling of visiting Pioneer Valley.
At 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds, Martin provides a north-south running style that puts constant pressure on opposing linebackers. A year removed from leading the PAC 5 in rushing with nearly 1,400 yards — despite missing four games because of an injury — Martin is well on his way to another 1,000-yard season.
Through the first five games, Martin has rushed for 501 yards and six touchdowns, bringing his career totals to an even 2,300 yards and 26 rushing touchdowns.
“I think as a team, at this point in the season, we’ve bonded to the fullest,” Martin said following his 117-yard, two-touchdown performance against Pioneer Valley. “You know, our first couple weeks we kind of lacked our blocking scheme offensively and a lot of the schemes have been changed to our benefit.”
The 6-foot-1, 191-pound Reusche is closing in on 400 rushing yards this season, including a 148-yard effort against Stockdale during Week 2 and a 120-yard performance last week against Nipomo.
Reusche accounted for 113 all-purpose yards in the win over Pioneer Valley, with 73 of those coming on four receptions. His 3-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter was his third rushing score this season and the 12th of his career.
In nine games as a junior, Reusche averaged nearly 9 yards per carry and finished the season with 969 rushing yards, an average of more than 107 per game.
Atascadero coach Vic Cooper said Martin and Reusche bring out the best in each other and elevate the overall level of competition in practice. The Greyhounds change of pace in the backfield has helped the team average more than 29 points per game this season.
“They’re making our offense go right now,” Cooper said.
Humility seems to be a shared characteristic between the two seniors. Either one is capable of handling a 30-carry workload, yet Martin said that’s never been an issue or sticking point between the two.
“It’s not a big deal for me and I don’t think it’s a big deal for him either,” Martin said. “We both rack up stats. I think he opens up the outside game and I bust down the inside, so we kind of benefit each other.”
Friday’s victory showed Atascadero has depth at key positions other than running back, which will be key when PAC 5 play begins Oct. 16.
Junior return specialist Tysen Delkener returned a punt 50 yards for a touchdown on one of the more exciting plays of the game. Senior Izaiah Sheeter pulled in two first-down catches in the second half, both coming from reserve quarterback Elijah Cooks.
When starter Carson Rinkenberger was limited during the first two quarters because of a nagging ankle injury, Cooks came on to start the third quarter and helped lead the Greyhounds on a quick scoring drive.
Cooper said Rinkenberger and Cooks split time during the season-opening victory over Morro Bay, but Rinkenberger has taken the majority of the snaps under center since. If his injury lingers, the 6-foot-3, 225-pound Cooks has the ability to step in and contribute.
Cooks completed 6 of 8 passes for 79 yards and was intercepted once. He also had a 54-yard run that set up Reusche’s third-quarter touchdown.
“As we keep going if we can stay and we can get a few other guys back out there, I think the progression will speed up a little bit,” Cooper said. “The greatest thing about it is I don’t think we’ve peaked yet.”