By Joseph Santoliquito
Philadelphia, PA (CBS) — Mike Class has a way of introducing the fact that he’s more than just a speed back. Those rare times the 5-foot-11, 170-pound Pennridge junior isn’t running away from defenders, he’ll do something he doesn’t get much credit for—he’ll lower his shoulders, and bam, run right through a tackler.
Either way, Class is always moving forward and slashing his way for big chunks of yards. He’s a leading reason why the Rams are 6-1 overall after a surprising 24-10 victory last Friday over previously undefeated Central Bucks South, spurred by a game-high 228 yards and two touchdowns from Class.
Now Class and his Rams’ teammates face a looming challenge Friday at 7 p.m. when they host traditional powerhouse North Penn, which is 4-3 overall and playing for its life. A Pennridge victory over North Penn could sink the Knights’ PIAA District 1 Class AAAA playoff chances.
The problem is, North Penn has to stop Class. The other problem is, no one has been able to do that. Just seven games into this season, Class has rushed for 1,400 yards. He’s elusive, explosive, and when he has to be, he can be physical. It’s a part of his running style that often gets overlooked.
“After breaking through into the secondary, I rely on my speed,” said Class, a track star who is getting attention from Penn State, Boston College and a growing number of other schools. “If people think I’m just a speed back, I’ll let then think that. Against Souderton, I kind of ran over some people. I have no problem lowering a shoulder and fighting for that extra yard. We’re facing nine-10 guys in the box—all set up stop the run. We like to prove our running game is better than your defense. It starts up front with my offensive line.”
Tackles Shane Kraynik and Shane Galloway, guards Tyler Kio and Cory Blazer, and Ryan Anton and center Mike Sollazzo have provided gaping holes for Class.
His success has not come as a surprise to Rams’ coach Randy Cuthbert.
“Mike can do it all, he can fly, he can run around you, he can run through you, he’s a nightmare in the open field,” said Cuthbert. “In his sophomore year, in our first scrimmage, Mike made some moves and you can tell then he was pretty good. He rushed for 1,600 yards and I don’t think I ever had a sophomore do that before. He has a great work ethic.”
But Cuthbert likes something else about Class. After his incredible game against CB South last week, you would think Class might be charged up over rushing for over 200 yards against a premier team. No, that’s not what him going. He was more excited the pancake block he made to free up a teammate.
“It’s great when you have a kid like that, great work ethic, humble, that becomes contagious throughout the team,” Cuthbert said. “I think there are a lot of things working here. I thought Mike would develop into a Division I back, but our line has really come along. We’re running all over the place, and Mike spearheads that.
“Mike snuck up on people last year, and he’s not sneaking up on anyone this year, and he’s already rushed for over 1,400 yards in seven games. We’re seeing goal line looks on first and second downs a lot of the times. If he break through the second level, it’s very rare he gets tackled. He also has patience. He’ll wait and see things develop. You have to be with those heavy run looks. When there is a hole, Mike will find it.”
The last time Pennridge beat North Penn was 35-27 on September 24, 2004, behind a three-touchdown, 219-yard rushing performance by Ryan Greiser. In fact, it’s Greiser’s amazing single-season school-record 2,030 yards rushing that Class is aiming to shatter this season. With over 1,400 yards, and averaging about 200 yards a game, it’s a mark that may be in reach.
“So far it’s been real good; I try to amp it more each week,” Class said. “I want to break Greiser’s record this year. Being close, within 600 yards away, I think I have a chance. But this week against North Penn, personally, it’s going to be challenging. Team wise, I know if they stop me, we have a lot of great other kids. I’m not the only kid on the team that can make a play. We have a lot of kids on this team that can score. I’m just an average kid who wakes up and goes to school and plays football.”
And on occasion can lower the hammer when he needs.