Pha'Terrell Washington has taken center stage in Westlake's backfield. Some say it's about time.
Washington has been one of the most intriguing players in the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference for nearly his entire career. His raw abilities -- and his unofficial commitment to play cornerback at Maryland -- make some believe he is the best all-around athlete in the league.
His statistics reflect his explosiveness: In each of his three seasons at Westlake (he played as a freshman on McDonough's varsity), Washington has averaged at least 9 yards per carry; this season he is averaging 11.2 yards. The senior has averaged one touchdown per 8.1 carries during his career.
Yet he has never been the featured back in Westlake's wing-T offense. That is, until senior fullback Aaris Reed suffered a knee injury two weeks ago. As a result, Washington moved from playing on the wing -- where he ran mostly off-tackle and into the open field -- to fullback, which sends him into the trenches.
The switch also means Washington will receive the majority of the carries in Westlake's offense.
Said Westlake quarterback Mike Pegues, "He was more excited because he knew he was going to get the ball more."
Reed probably won't be able to play for at least another three weeks -- meaning the Wolverines would have to advance to the Maryland 3A South Region final for him to play again. As a result, Washington's game will be examined from a new perspective. There are questions: Will he be as effective running inside the tackles as he has been on the outside? Moreover, has he been so electrifying because he has been used sporadically?
"He did a good job," Westlake Coach Dominic Zaccarelli said of Washington's performance last week against Huntingtown, in which he rushed a season-high 12 times for 101 yards. "It's a different view of things. It was frustrating more than anything [for him] because he wanted to break one. It's a different perspective."
Washington acknowledged having to get used to that new perspective, adding: "It was tough. I'm used to running in between spaces. Now I'm running between the tackles."
Washington said he harbors no grudges about never being the lead back and is eager to prove wrong those who doubt whether he can handle the load of being a featured back. It's a doubt that has followed him as he has pursued scholarship offers.
Being the lead back "basically shows I can carry the load," he said. "They say I'm not that durable. A lot of people out there were doubting me and my ability. Now I have a chance to prove myself."