Mario Coleman has spent most of his high school football career running past defenders. This season, he's added a new wrinkle to his approach: He wants to run them over, too.
The Mount Vernon senior spent much of the offseason in the weight room, packing on 15 pounds of "solid muscle" onto his 5-foot-8-inch frame.
"I used to be a scat-back," Coleman said. "Now I can run people over because I'm stronger. . . .
"I like contact. I like laying hits on people and like when someone lays a hit on me. It either wakes me up or gets me hyped. It gets my game flowing."
After rushing for just more than 2,000 yards combined the past two seasons, he hopes the added strength will help him enjoy a breakthrough season -- and help Mount Vernon return to the playoffs for the third time four years, all of which he has spent on varsity.
"He moves so well," Edison Coach Vaughn Lewis said. "He's going to be a big threat this year. You need the whole team to pursue him, and you're not going to bring him down by arm-tackling. He's a legit running back."
Coleman's responsibility this fall will extend well beyond running and catching. He'll also play cornerback -- he didn't play on defense much last season -- and he'll be counted on to be one of the team's leaders, Coach Jody Stone said. Coleman said he is ready.
And there is no doubt he already has the respect of his peers. As a freshman, Coleman watched from the sideline as the Majors captured the Virginia AAA Northern Region Division 5 title. Last year, he helped Mount Vernon return to the postseason, albeit with a less successful outcome. He walked off the field after a frustrating 26-0 loss to Madison in the first round, held to just 22 yards.
Coleman also said he's ready to have his best season. And if his statistics from past two seasons are any indication, he'll do just that. As a sophomore, Coleman rushed for 803 yards and nine touchdowns. Last year, he gained 1,236 yards and 21 touchdowns.
"We got what it takes to get back in the playoffs. This year, we have to finish what started when we get there," he said. "I want to get over 1,000 again. Make people notice me as one of the best running backs around here."
-- Tarik El-Bashir