Cole Bush had an emphatic high school football career at Burrell.
He was a running back who underscored his carries with natural force, pancaking would-be tacklers and often dragging them across smeared hashmarks.
Because he was bigger than just about everyone on the field — many linemen included — blocking wasn't always his main duty. But that will change this season at St. Francis (Pa.), when the 6-foot-2, 230-pound sophomore returns to halfback, where he began his college career before an injury to a teammate shifted him to tight end.
St. Francis opens the season at 6 p.m. Saturday at No. 11 Fordham.
Bush hopes to see carries in the Red Flash offense — perhaps best described as pro-style with spread characteristics — but he anticipates more of a fullback role.
“We have some packages where I'm split out or at tight end in the three-point stance,” Bush said. “Halfback and tight end are the same position, basically. I guess to (make the switch,) you have to have a nasty side in you.
“The tight end always has his hand in the dirt. With a wing back, you're only in the three-point stance sometimes. There are more kick-out blocks, more in pass routes.”
Bush appeared in seven games last season and had three receptions for 71 yards. He missed the final two games with a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Surgery was required. Bush came out of the anesthesia in December and realized it wouldn't be until April that he'd be able to play again.
“I think I actually injured (the shoulder) in high school,” Bush said. “It got worse. It was pretty painful, and I had no strength, so it became pointless to play.”
Bush, a former all-state linebacker, missed all of St. Francis's spring workouts but doesn't feel he's behind. He's ready to help push the Red Flash downfield.
With star running back Kyle Harbridge gone, Bush thinks the passing game will open.
“One thing that was really stressful was that we put in some no-huddle packages in during the spring,” Bush said. “I didn't get those reps, but I think I'll be OK.”
Frank Failace, a redshirt sophomore, is back at tight end. Bush took his place out of necessity due to a season-ending leg injury.
Bush, a former Valley News Dispatch Offensive Player of the Year who rushed for 1,794 yards and 33 touchdowns as a senior, could have gone the Ivy League route coming out of high school. But he chose Loretto because, “It's up in the mountains, the country. I grew up in Upper Burrell, which is like the country.”
He has no regrets.
“It's tough with football and school,” said Bush, who carries a 3.9 grade-point average. “I am enjoying it here. I think it was the perfect pick for me.”
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