Ross works hard to improve

The night before the Sage Hill School football team opened the season, Taylor Ross watched footage of himself running the ball. He wanted to get himself psyched for the game, so he turned on the film from last season.

Ross found it hard recognizing who he was on the field.

"I wasn't No. 22 [last year]," Ross said of the new number he wears on his jersey. "I was No. 10 last year."

The change in number is not the only change in Ross. He looked smaller than he is now.

Ross said he gained 30 pounds in the offseason. He introduced plyometric exercises into his daily routine and he and Sage Hill are thrilled with the results.

Ross has turned into a game-changer at running back. Add record-breaker.

Ross' start to his senior year was a smashing success. He broke Sage Hill's single-game rushing record last week, running for 250 yards in a 20-13 victory against Fairmont Prep.

Twenty-five times Ross carried the ball. Three of those went for touchdowns.

Eighty yards. Thirty-four yards. Seven yards.

Sage Hill has its short-yardage back and home-run hitter in Ross.

"Last year, there were times where he got caught," Sage Hill Coach J.R. Tolver said. "He would break long runs and he would get caught. This year, not so much the weight [he has put on], but just the strength in his legs and his ability to be faster for a longer period of time allowed [him to record] that 80-yard [touchdown run].

"If you look at the film, the kid had an angle on him, the kid chasing him, a pretty fast kid. [Ross] dropped that thing down to fifth gear and just proved that his offseason conditioning really paid off."

Six days a week is how many times Ross said he worked out. No one told Ross to put in the work.

The 5-foot-10 Ross took it upon himself to beef up to 192 pounds of mostly muscle. He said his body-fat percentage is at 10.9%, a number reserved for athletes.

Ross is surely one of the top all-around players in the area. He practically does it all for the Lightning, runs the ball, catches the ball, kicks the ball and tackles whoever has the ball.

"Any team would be lucky to have a kid like him who is as versatile as he is," said Tolver, who has 19 players on varsity.

With the low numbers at Sage Hill, Ross has to be the running back, linebacker, placekicker and punter. As if all those roles were not enough, the Lightning gave Ross a new one. Run the Wildcat formation.

Ross ran with it in the second half of last week's opener.

Four minutes into the third quarter and Sage Hill behind, 13-6, Ross lined up at quarterback in shotgun formation. The Lightning were on their own 20-yard line when Eric Cheng went in motion. Ross took the snap, and he had two options, hand it to Cheng or fake it.

Ross kept it and ran right before cutting it back inside. Ross fooled the defense and was on his way to an 80-yard touchdown and cutting the deficit to one.

The Wildcat continued to work for Ross and the Lightning. They went to it again late in the third quarter.

Ross this time broke a couple of tackles en route to a 34-yard score to put Sage Hill ahead for the first time since the opening quarter. Ross converted the two-point conversion out of the Wildcat to make a it a seven-point game, a feeling Ross said felt good.

Ross felt a lot better after learning the 34-yard touchdown run pushed him past Keya Manshadi's previous school record mark of 204 yards set five years ago. Ross knows Manshadi, who played with Ross' older brother, Braden, at Sage Hill.

Ross and Manshadi talked about Ross' big night.

"He just said, 'Great job,' " Ross said. "He wanted to keep the record."

Ross owns it now and a copy of the game. He said he has not had the chance to view the entire game against Fairmont Prep.

If Ross needs to pump himself up before today's 7 p.m. home game against Tri-City Christian of Vista, he has something good to watch.

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