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Chris Gavin, Carroll's all-time leading rusher, has one more goal

South Carroll's Chris Gavin runs upfield in front of Winters Mill's Kevin Pixler.
South Carroll's Chris Gavin runs upfield in front of Winters Mill's Kevin Pixler. (Dave Munch / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

As a running back, South Carroll's Chris Gavin set many goals over the years, including breaking the Carroll County single-season rushing record, winning the county championship and earning a dog for his family.

Last week, the senior reached 1,844 rushing yards, breaking the 16-year-old record of 1,819 set by Liberty's Calvin Stacey. On Halloween, Gavin ran for 221 of those yards as the Cavaliers beat North Carroll to clinch their first county title in four years.

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And the dog? She's 9 years old.

Bailey joined the household as the result of a deal John Gavin made with his older sons Chris and Kyle, now a junior kicker and back-up lineman for the Cavaliers. If their Winfield Rec team could beat Arbutus to finish 10-0, he would let the boys get a dog.

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Late in that game, Winfield trailed by four points. Eight-year-old Chris ran a sweep down the sideline about 70 yards for a touchdown. The dog was theirs. Then Chris saw the flag.

"It was called back for holding, so I went back to my dad — coaches would stand in the huddle back then — and I told him, 'Give me the ball. Give me the ball again.' And I did the same thing. I ran all the way down and scored the game-winning touchdown. We really wanted the dog," Chris said.

Two years ago, he decided he really wanted to break the county rushing record. He had set a school freshman record for most touchdowns and that made him believe he could succeed when he got to varsity.

Cavaliers coach Steve Luette thought so, too.

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"Watching him run when he was on the freshman team, I was thinking, 'We've got something special coming,'" Luette said. "Chris is one of those true blue football players. He lives and breathes it. He always wants to do whatever he has to do for football."

During his sophomore year, Gavin read about another county running back aiming for Stacey's milestone, Century's Tyrice Rock.

"When he was getting close to the record, they published an article that said, 'Record within reach,' and it listed the top five rushers in Carroll history," Gavin said. "I took that article and posted the title on my wall and I see it every day. My mom came in and asked me one day why I had it and I just told her, 'I believe I can break it one day.'"

He attacked that goal with the same resolve he mustered when going for the dog.

After running mostly to the outside as a freshman, he learned to run up the middle. He overcame a concussion that forced him to sit out the last half of his sophomore season. He quit track to spend more time in the weight room, so he could better withstand the hits. He had joined the track team to improve his speed.

Last year, he ran for more than 1,000 yards. This fall, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Gavin has run for at least 100 yards and one touchdown in 10 of 11 games while also starting at linebacker. In a 40-35 win over Manchester Valley, he ran for 325 yards and four of his 23 touchdowns.

"You can tell he put time in the weight room," Manchester Valley coach Tony Shermeyer said. "He seems to be a lot stronger and a lot faster. He reads his holes well and once he makes up his mind where he's going, he explodes through the hole. Once he gets to the next level, it's tough to catch him."

Against Manchester Valley, Gavin broke touchdown runs of 80 and 85 yards, something he's been doing since his rec football days.

"There's no reason not to expect it," Cavaliers quarterback Andrew Louder said. "The way we design our offense, just about every play can go for a big play and Chris can make that happen."

College coaches have noticed. Duke, Syracuse and Pittsburgh have invited him as a preferred walk-on, but with a 3.9 weighted GPA, Gavin is also considering Ivy League, Division II and Division III programs.

Despite the attention, he remains team-oriented. He's quick to credit everyone around him, especially the offensive line — Scott Eudy, Brian Norwood, Jason Mooney, Steven Stockslager and Brian Plummer.

"They make it easy for me," Gavin said. "The record should go to everyone on the team, because it really is a team record. I'm just the guy holding the ball running. Those guys are just awesome."

Gavin's next goal is a team goal in every way: winning South Carroll's first state football championship.

The Cavaliers (8-3) will play in the region final for the second straight year after upsetting Oakdale, 35-12 last Friday behind 206 yards and three touchdowns from Gavin. If they can get past Liberty for a second time this fall, they will head to the state semifinals for the first time since 2007.

Gavin also wants to extend the season for another reason, to play again with Kyle, who has been injured but may be able to kick if the Cavaliers reach the state semifinals. Through the first eight weeks of the season, the brothers combined for 53.5 percent of South Carroll's points.

"What's pretty cool is that the last time I played with him (before this year) was that Arbutus game way back when we were winning the dog," Gavin said, "and there have been a couple games this year where its just been on the score line 'Chris Gavin, touchdown; Kyle Gavin kick' all they way down, which is pretty awesome for the family."

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