If you happened to be at Montaña de Oro this summer, you may have seen a couple of teenagers running as fast as they could to the top of the sandy dunes.
While most took in the ocean views and took leisurely strolls along the cliffs, Mission Prep running back Brayen Corona was sprinting up dunes so he could run past defenders on the football field. So far, that work has paid off.
“He put on some weight in the lower body, so he’s showing the ability to break tackles which is something he wasn’t able to do last year,” Mission Prep coach Chad Henry said. “He’s become a more complete back.”
The Royals are 2-0 this season and a big part of the team’s success has been because of the running attack led by the 5-foot-8 junior.
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“It’s been awesome,” Corona said during practice Tuesday of his new role as a feature back. “I’ve been dreaming of this since I came to Mission.”
Coming into the season, Mission Prep expected to generate most of its yards through junior quarterback Bryce Fledderman. But with the passing game sputtering early, Henry handed the ball to Corona and cut him loose.
Corona has averaged 188 yards per game on the ground in the first two games and has five total touchdowns. That dune-built speed has helped him break long runs of 42, 65 and 78 yards, all of which came in the second half of each victory.
“He showed a lot of flashes in the final game last year,” Henry said of Corona’s six-carry, 67-yard performance in the season ending loss to Maranatha, “so we had high expectations and a lot of hope for what he was going to be able to do, but you can never expect those kinds of performances.”
Corona, who has been on the varsity since he was a freshman, says that he learned a lot from his predecessors, including former Mission Prep running back Patrick Laird, who now plays at Cal.
“To see how he started from nothing really, and now he’s at Cal playing. Watching that work ethic and seeing that it pays off,” Corona said.
Along with watching more film than usual in the offseason and packing on a few pounds, Corona says the Royals’ new offensive scheme has helped him be successful. After years of running a strictly under-center offense, Henry has put Fledderman and Corona in a pistol formation this season.
“I actually prefer (pistol) just because it gives you the ball quicker and you get more time to see the holes and watch the plays develop,” Corona said. “It’s a big difference.”
Corona’s production alone has accounted for 66 percent of Mission Prep’s total offense. But the Royals don’t want to keep it that way for Friday’s game at home against St. Anthony or moving forward.
“I know that we are going to be good (in the passing game), it’s just a matter of time,” Henry said. “We hope to get back to being a more balanced team and when that happens, we’re going to be pretty tough.”