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Ground game in good hands
Darlington's Jason Singer carries the ball in for a touchdown after a reception during a Division 6 semi-final matchup against Edgar Friday in DeForest. (Times file photo: Anthony Wahl)
DARLINGTON - If Darlington's chances of winning a state championship rest on the shoulders of three running backs, the Redbirds will be in good hands.

It's been a historic run for the Redbirds' three running backs with each eclipsing 1,000 yards rushing in the same season. It marks just the seventh time in the history of the state that the same team has produced running backs with 1,000 yards or more in the same season.

Darlington fullback Myles Leahy at 6 feet and 225 pounds is a bruising fullback who makes the Redbirds' Wing-T offense go. Leahy has rushed for a team-leading 1,206 yards with 24 TDs this season. He missed the first two games for an athletic code violation and missed two games due to an ankle injury. He is averaging 134 yards rushing per game. Leahy is waiting until after the WIAA Division 6 state championship game Thursday to ponder the accomplishment.

"Last year, come the state championship game it didn't mean a thing," Leahy said. "It's just numbers."

It's the second straight year the Redbirds have had three running backs rush for 1,000 yards or more in the same season. Senior running back Jason Singer has rushed for 1,206 yards and 17 TDs. Singer is averaging an eye-popping 9.6 yards per carry. Sophomore running back Hunter Johnson has rushed for 1,002 yards with 12 TDs. Each back has their own strengths, but as a three-pronged attack, the Redbirds have been near unstoppable averaging more than 324 rushing yards per game.

Singer has blazing speed and quickness. Johnson has a combination of toughness and speed the Redbirds like to use off-tackle, on perimeter runs and counter runs.

"It does mean a lot," Singer said of the accomplishment that each of the three running backs has rushed for more than 1,000 yards. "The biggest difference this year is we have a 1,000-yard passer. We are more balanced this year. We have worked hard in the offseason to prove to everyone that we could get back to state."

Darlington coach Scott Zywicki likes the multi-dimensional options the Redbirds have to attack opposing defenses.

"We can run it inside with Myles and outside with Jason and Hunter, and they have the ability to take it the distance," Zywicki said.

Leahy at fullback gets the tough yards pounding up the middle, and he is the lead blocker on the sweep plays for the Redbirds often called on to make a kick-out block on the defensive end.

"Myles is a very physical runner," Zywicki said. "He's very strong and with a one-arm tackle, it's difficult to bring him down."

Against Edgar, the Redbirds faced a fourth-and-1 from their own 13-yard line in the first last week and went for it with Leahy converting on a 1-yard run.

"He (Leahy) gives us the confidence that we can get the short yardage and keep the chains moving," Zywicki said.

Darlington senior quarterback Cole McDonald has passed for 1,174 yards with 17 TDs and just three interceptions. He has often benefited from using play-action passes to hit big plays down the field.

McDonald said the offense is more diverse this year than last year. The Redbirds have won 12 straight games since a season-opening 35-19 loss to Platteville. McDonald plans to keep the offense rolling.

"Hopefully, I can keep the defense honest enough to make their job easier," McDonald said of the Redbirds' running backs. "You don't get to the state championship game by accident. They will be ready for us and we will be ready for them."