Salisbury football's offensive success keyed by quarterback John Dunbar, trio of running backs

Salisbury’s 37-34 overtime upset of then-No. 6 St. John Fisher last Saturday was punctuated by senior fullback J.D. Hook’s 16-yard touchdown run. But the running game has been powering the offense all season.

The Sea Gulls (2-2 overall and 1-1 in the Empire 8 Athletic Conference) have averaged 289.8 rushing yards thus far, seventh-best in Division III. They compiled 312 rushing yards against a Cardinals defense that had surrendered an average of 288.7 total yards prior to Saturday’s contest.

The backfield is anchored by Hook, who leads that group in carries (49) and yards (255). Sophomore Aarron Moore paces the unit in rushing touchdowns (four), while sophomore Ryan Kolb leads in yards per attempt (7.7 via 193 yards on 25 carries).

Salisbury coach Sherman Wood said he prefers using several backs rather than singling out one workhorse.

“I don’t like the idea of a star tailback because it puts pressure on the one kid, and that would subject him to injuries” he said. “It’s a lot of pressure on a kid on our level to be that one star. We like the idea of playing a lot of people. You can take that any way you want – if you want to consider that wearing people down or making sure our kids are fresh. We just like the idea of playing people.

"I always have a policy where I want to be three-deep with people who can start, and the third person is going to push the No. 1 guy. The No. 1 sees that the third person is right there on his tail, and they’re going to compete. That’s what depth is all about. They’re going to compete and it brings out the best in the 1s, the 2s, and the 3s. That’s what we want to do. And those kids play together. They love each other and they work together.”

As prolific as the backs have been, the running attack is paced by junior quarterback John Dunbar, who has carried the ball 74 times for 347 yards and five touchdowns. Dunbar, who has been the starter since an 84-yard, two-touchdown performance in a 24-23 overtime loss to then-No. 24 Ithaca on Nov. 9, 2013, has grown more comfortable with the expectations placed on a quarterback, Wood said.

“One of the things I always mention to John is, if you’re going to be the quarterback and we’re in a third-and-1 or fourth-and-1, it’s your job to get it,” Wood said. “We had three fourth-and-1 situations against St. John Fisher, and there was no hesitation whether we were going to kick a field goal or go for it, and we got them all. … He’s doing well – well enough for us to win. I expect even more progress from him as the season goes on."

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