Valley feature back Houser plans to go fast and faster
Demetrius “Meech” Houser knows about the history of Valley's football program, which for many years, has thrived on the play of standout running backs.
Bill Callahan. Brandon Williams. Donny Booker. Tracy Booker-Durand. Line them up and get out of their way.
“Durand is my favorite,” Houser said. “I love how he ran the ball. He'd lower his shoulder and always look to score a touchdown every time he touched the ball. That's what I want to do.”
For the second straight season, Houser will be the featured back, but the senior doesn't feel the pressure to perform like his predecessors.
“If they could do it, I can do it, too,” Houser said.
Last season, the elusive 6-foot-1, 180-pounder showed he could handle the backfield burden, earning first-team All-Allegheny Conference honors after rushing for 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns for a team that returned to the WPIAL playoffs after a four-year absence.
Valley opens the season at 7:30 Friday night at Deer Lakes, and Houser will be ready to keep the momentum moving forward.
“He has two speeds,” Valley coach Chad Walsh said. “Fast and faster.”
Valley is considered one of the top teams in the Class AA Allegheny Conference, with a bevy of returning starters, Houser and his low-key demeanor notwithstanding.
“He's a yes-sir, no-sir kid,” Walsh said. “Meech is very likeable. He's loose and sort of goes with the flow.”
Walsh said Houser also is a prankster — the player who cracks a joke to loosen up the huddle or throws up bunny ears in a team photo.
“But he knows when it's time to get serious,” Walsh said. “I just have to give him that look.”
Either that, or just call him Demetrius.
“When someone calls me that, I look around because I know I did something wrong,” Houser said with a laugh. “The coaches call me that when I have to run or when they crack jokes.”
Houser's breakthrough junior season had its key moments, like when he broke a 55-yard touchdown run against Freeport on the way to a 9-8 upset of the then-seventh-ranked Yellowjackets.
Houser ran for 111 yards in that game.
“When Dylan Clarke got hurt last year, we moved (Houser) to fullback,” Walsh said. “You had a 180-pound kid blocking and he did a nice job. But we needed him at tailback. He wanted us to keep running traps. He really hit the hole well for us.”
Houser said he has seen a change in his teammates since last season's turnaround. Players who once moped and made excuses are anxious to get to practice and asking what they can do to help.
“The attitude around here has changed,” Houser said. “We play hard in games, and we know we can overcome little mistakes.”
Goals also have shifted upward. A team that used to chase moral victories suddenly is hungry for conference titles.
“We want to go undefeated,” Houser said with a smile.
And that's no joke.
Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at email@example.com.