It is difficult to estimate the myriad ways in which Russell White affects the performance of the Crespi High football team.
When he has played at full strength, the passing game clicks because of the mere threat of a balanced attack. When he is physically sound, he plays on defense, allowing other two-way players a chance for a breather. And, of course, there is the fear factor, wherein normally strong-willed defenders retreat faster than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s hairline.
Yet when White has been hobbled by injuries, the Celts have sputtered like a car with a tank of bad gasoline.
White seems to have the ankles of a newborn colt. By game time, they are heavily taped--each sporting a bulky orthopedic brace for support--and look like the hooves of a Clydesdale. When he is in fine fettle, however, he runs like a mustang.
Saturday night, White recorded his best overall performance of the year in Crespi’s 49-0 win over Alemany at Pierce College. He rushed for 153 yards and scored 4 touchdowns, the third of which established White as the state career scoring leader. White, who has 488 points, bettered the record of 476, set in 1980-83 by running back Tyreese Knox of Jefferson High in Daly City.
It was a quintessential performance for White, who had been slowed for much of Crespi’s first 5 games because of a nagging sprain of his left ankle. Not coincidentally, Crespi started the season 2-3. Against Alemany, White scored on runs of 1, 28 and 2 yards. He also reached the end zone after taking an 18-yard shovel pass from quarterback Ron Redell.
For many, his white-washing of the scoring mark was a foregone conclusion. It was not a matter of if , but when he would rewrite the record book. And when . . . and when . . . and when.
Saturday’s performance, coupled with a resounding team effort in the Del Rey League opener, helped take some of the sting out of Crespi’s--and White’s--sluggish start. White had gained 483 yards in 5 games this year--80.8 yards a game under the average (177.6) he established in his first 2 seasons.
“We were all wondering what was wrong,” he said.
Among the words stitched on his letterman’s jacket are “L. White.” It is a play on his first name, as in “Russ-L.” But it proved prophetic because there were definitely more Ls than Ws as the Celts headed into league play Saturday. And all this after Crespi started the season ranked No. 18 in the nation by one publication.
“This is the second season,” White said. “It has been very, very, very hard for us. I haven’t been on a team that’s lost 3 games in my life, and that counts Pop Warner. We wanted this one bad.”
White certainly made Alemany look bad in the process, gaining 108 yards in the first half. He carried only twice after intermission, including a 2-yard scoring blast over the left side in the third quarter, his fourth score of the night.
“I got another couple to put some distance between me and the next guy,” said White, who liberated one of Crespi’s game balls as a souvenir. “I have at least 4 more games, so maybe nobody will break this one for a long, long while. Except maybe my kid.”
White could add the state and Southern Section career rushing mark to his portfolio this week against St. John Bosco. He needs 143 yards to break the record of 5,397 set by Ray Pallares of Valencia High in Placentia (1983-85).
White had his eye on Pallares’ mark during the Alemany game, twice asking for estimates of his rushing yardage. Because of the rout, however, White was used sparingly in the second half.
While White’s next record-book rewrite job will have to wait, the lopsided win was just the tonic Crespi needed. Confidence, White said, was getting low after consecutive losses to Servite and Muir, in which Crespi surrendered 69 points.
“We were starting to hear stuff like, ‘Crespi? Who are you guys going to lose to this week,’ ” he said. “I think we decided to come out this time and kick a little booty.”
And the player in the biggest boots set the tone. White even contributed to Crespi’s strongest defensive performance of the season, starting in the secondary.
With a healthy White playing on defense, the Crespi substitution package is complete, allowing Redell--who also must play both ways--the opportunity to rotate with White, so both may rest and confer with coaches.
“I just kind of looked at myself in the mirror today and said, ‘Hey, you have to play defense,’ ” White said Saturday night. “So be it.”
And from now on, when White peers into the looking glass, the state’s highest-scoring running back will be looking back.
A RUN TO THE TOP SOUTHERN SECTION RUSHING LEADERS
Yards Player/School Years 5,397 Ray Pallares/Valencia 1983-85 5,255 Russell White/Crespi 1986-88 5,213 Craig Johnson/Whittier Chrs. 1973-75 5,181 Steve Tetrick/L.A. Baptist 1970-72 4,920 Mickey Cureton/Centennial 1964-66 4,882 Eric Bieniemy/Bishop Amat 1984-86 4,807 Aaron Emanuel/Quartz Hill 1982-84 4,597 Ryan Knight/Rubidoux 1982-83 4,553 Marvin Williams/Colton 1973-75 4,481 Carlos Adams/Atascadero 1979-81