Leesville Road's Braxton Berrios doesn't play 'what if'

Braxton Berrios will be back where he belongs against Garner in 2012

tstevens@newsobserver.comNovember 16, 2012 

Photo By Damon Thomas

Leesville Road's Braxton Berrios (8) stiff arms Middle Creek's Dajuan Young (5) during the 2nd round of the NCHSAA 4A Football Playoffs, Leesville Road takes on Middle Creek. Apex, NC, Friday, November 9, 2012. Apex NC Photo By Damon Thomas

DAMON THOMAS — newsobserver.com

Fans might have wondered a year ago how the NCHAA third-round football playoff game between undefeated Garner and unbeaten Leesville Road would have turned out if both teams were at full strength, but not Leesville standout Braxton Berrios.

He doesn’t play “what if.”

Berrios, the Pride’s best receiver a year ago, was shifted to quarterback after his brother Austin Berrios was injured.

The younger Berrios rushed for 245 yards and passed for another 167 against Garner in the 42-21 loss.

“We just ran out of time,” Braxton Berrios said. “If we had played from then to now, we might be ahead now, but we didn’t play well enough to win that night. We lost two fumbles on our side of the 50 and dug ourselves a hole that was too deep for us to climb out.”

Berrios was disappointed that he was at quarterback in that game because he played the position due to his brother’s injury. But he sees no need to think about how the game might have gone under different circumstances.

“We played as hard as we could and we got beat,” he said. “It is pretty simple. It was our fourth game with me at quarterback. We knew what we were doing.”

Leesville coach Chad Smothers doesn’t think much about how the outcome might have differed with Austin Berrios at quarterback and Braxton at receiver.

“Garner was a great team last year,” Smothers said. “We would have loved to play them with Austin Berrios at QB. However, would the outcome of the game been different? Only the football gods know that answer.”

Garner coach Nelson Smith said he knows Leesville losing Austin Berrios was a factor in last year’s game. “That took away another weapon,” he said. “This year’s Leesville team is more diversified than last year.”

Braxton Berrios is glad to be back to his hybrid position of receiver/running back and he leads the Pride in rushing (1,145 yards) and receiving (583 yards). He also is back at defensive back, duties he gave up last year when he played under center.

He is excited about Friday’s rematch of undefeated teams, but said all of the pregame excitement dissipates as soon as the game kicks off.

“Once the game starts, you are so focused on trying to win that you aren’t thinking about the other stuff,” he said. “Players have to stay above all of the pregame stuff.”

Focus is important, he said. He has been told that great players make great plays in great games.

So far this season, he has.

In a key 52-24 win against Wakefield, he rushed for 196 yards and scored five touchdowns. In a 36-7 win against Wake Forest-Rolesville, he had 95 yards in receptions and scored two touchdowns. In last week’s 37-30 playoff win against Middle Creek, he scored two more touchdowns.

He has run for 22 touchdowns, caught passes for seven more and thrown one touchdown pass.

But the Pride is far from being a one-man gang.

Leesville leads the area in rushing offense with 328.8 yards per game, meaning quarterback Evan Parker and backs Kamir Bowen and Maurice Lauchner are contributing about 200 rushing yards per game. The Pride also averages 40.3 points per game, about three touchdowns per games excluding Berrios’ scores.

“Leesville has a great team and a great program,” said Garner’s Smith. “But you need to make sure that you know where Berrios is, because he is a great player.

“We need some kryptonite because he is like Superman. He never comes off the field and pound for pound is one of the best I’ve seen.”

TSTEVENS: 919-829-8910

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