Reese relishes role in Mt. Pleasant backfield
Midseason changes aren't always the best thing for football teams.
But for Mt. Pleasant and Cody Reese, a major position change paid off last season, and the benefits should continue to show.
Reese enters this season as the starting running back and top returning rusher for the Vikings, a role that is quite a change from this time last year, when he was taking snaps as the Vikings' backup quarterback.
The Vikings' coaching staff always knew Reese could play — on defense, he started the whole season at cornerback and this year is moving to safety — but the 5-foot-11, 165-pound senior showed he was an offensive weapon from his first opportunity last year.
"It was kind of funny. I got an opportunity to run the ball in the first game last year against Laurel Highlands. (The coaches) called a quarterback power (run), and it went for 60 yards and a touchdown," Reese said. "After that, the coaches said we've got to get the ball in this kid's hands more, and eventually, I started working at running back."
By midseason, the transition became permanent, and Reese was plugged into the starting lineup. He finished the year with 618 yards and seven touchdowns on 64 carries — 9.7 yards per carry — adding four catches for 58 yards and a receiving touchdown, as well.
"We had Johnny Yester at quarterback, but (Reese) was a kid we wanted to get in the game more," said first-year Vikings coach Jason Fazekas, an assistant with last year's team. "He's a guy who can make big plays whenever he has the ball."
While some players might not like being moved out of the quarterback position, Reese jumped at the chance, knowing the result would be more playing time. Now, he has a chance to spend his senior season at one position with a full preseason and camp behind him.
"I was all for it when they moved me. Growing up through midgets, I always seemed to be a quarterback/running back mix depending on the team," Reese said. "I'm more comfortable this year with the plays, the position and everything going on around me."
Reese won't have to be a one-man show in the backfield. Senior Michael Govern, a 5-11, 210-pound back, joins him behind junior quarterback Lucas Pieszak. Though Govern was limited to 22 carries last season, they were productive runs, going for 152 yards and a score.
"If you look at last year, we ran about 500 plays and about 100 of them were passes. We don't plan to change that mix too much, so there are going to be plenty of carries for all our backs," Fazekas said.
Even though Govern is the bigger of the two backs, Reese says both he and his backfield mate have the ability to surprise tacklers.
"I'm excited to see (Govern) carry the ball more. He's a bigger back with speed to get to the corner," Reese said. "Even though he's bigger than me, I still like to lower my shoulder and run through a guy rather than make a move on him. It's just the way I was taught to run."
Matt Grubba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @Grubba_Trib.