Game of the Week: Golden Plains' Andrew Luna excels at new position
Published on -9/27/2012, 10:13 AM
By CONOR NICHOLL
In 2010 and 2011, Andrew Luna started at guard for Rexford-Golden Plains. A running back in junior high, Luna showed speed and quickness but was best used as a blocker for Kalyn Weber, who exceeded 1,330 yards the last two falls. Last year, though, coach Travis Smith talked with Luna about moving from offensive line to running back for 2012.
During the spring, Luna again showcased his speed when he finished 11th in the 400-meter dash at the Class 1A state track and field meet. Luna started at running back at summer camp and has excelled in the different position for the new-look Bulldogs this fall.
"It's been really different," Luna said. "When you are running back, you've still got to block sometimes. It's really been a big, big change, actually. The hardest part is pretty much remembering all the plays, because when I was a guard, you kind of just remembered which way you went during a play, and the easiest part I've got to say, is just the running the ball for me, actually."
Luna has rushed 71 times for 774 yards and 11 scores.
He ranks second in Kansas and first in the area among eight-man players in rushing yards, according to maxpreps.com. His 11 rushing scores stand fourth. As well, Luna ranks second on the squad with 36 tackles, 10 behind senior Jose Bermudez.
On Friday, Golden Plains (2-2, 1-1 Eight-Man, Division II, District 6) hosts Bird City-Cheylin (2-2, 1-1) in a key district matchup.
"We are going to have our work cut out for us keeping him contained if we can," Cheylin coach Max Keltz said.
Smith, 60-58 in his 13th season with the Bulldogs, has built a consistent program that has dipped below four wins once in his tenure. One of the reasons is players like Luna, who have played well after switching positions.
"These small schools you've got to adapt to what you have," Smith said. "You want your best eight players on the field no matter where they are at."
In Smith's first season, he had Lee Albers on the line.
Then, Albers became Smith's feature back and earned all-state honors as a running back and defensive end. As a junior, Albers rushed for 1,412 yards and 14 scores in 2001 and helped Golden Plains finish 5-4 with the program's first winning record since 1985. The next year, Albers led all of eight-man football with 1,659 rushing yards as the Bulldogs delivered an 8-2 season, the best record under Smith.
"We've got good kids," Smith said. "We've got good kids that want to be a part of our program. They buy into what we are trying to do. Like Andrew, they are willing to play anywhere, so they really want to do what is best for the team."
In the preseason, Smith thought 2012 might be a rebuilding year. Golden Plains returned just two Bulldogs who played in the same position as last year: senior center Camron Spresser and junior guard Tristan Schwarz. Smith knew which players would be in the other six positions, but was certain how they would perform.
"I just didn't know what we were going to have," Smith said.
As well, the Bulldogs had to replace Weber and 6-foot-5 end Cole Christensen from a 4-5 team. While Golden Plains has lost to Quinter and Weskan, the Bulldogs have earned wins against an improved Ransom-Western Plains team and Tribune-Greeley County.
"We do have a lot of new faces, and I am kind of surprised with how well we did, but I knew we could do it," Luna said. "We've just got to see what we've got now. It's probably how much we play as a team together, and how dedicated we are to the game and each other. It's pretty much an effort from everybody."
Golden Plains has had several players who either didn't go out last year or didn't play much step in and play solid.
"We are much more competitive this year than I thought we'd be," Smith said. "That's because the kids have bought in."
While last year's offense relied heavily on Weber, this season Luna is the centerpiece for an attack that Smith labeled much more balanced than 2011. Golden Plains has only passed for 39 yards this season, but has rushed for 279.5 yards a contest.
"Focused on running the ball," Smith said. "Really want to control the line of scrimmage."
The 5-foot-10, 175-pound Luna is uncertain where his speed came from, but noticed it around the end of his sophomore football season. On a kickoff, Luna said he "just kind of got down the field really fast." That speed carried over to basketball and track.
"Knew we had to take advantage," Smith said. "Get him in the backfield."
Luna collected 196 yards and two scores in the season opener against Quinter, and then rushed for 303 yards and five scores in the Week 2 win against Western Plains. He tacked on 153 yards and three TDs last week.
"Once he is in the open field, you are not going to catch him," Smith said. "I would like to see him be more elusive than he is, but if we can get him on the outside, he is usually (going to break it)."
Last week, Golden Plains and Luna struggled. He still gained 122 yards, but the Bulldogs fell 56-6 to Weskan.
"We didn't come to play at all," Luna said.
"Honestly, for me, it felt like I just woke up and I wasn't ready at all to play that day. It didn't feel like a game day for me."
Still, Luna scored the lone touchdown and finished with strong numbers mainly because of a career-long 73-yard TD run.
"It was supposed to go the other way, but I didn't see an opening, so it was kind of scary at first, because I thought I was going to get blown up in the backfield," Luna said.