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HSFB preview by position: Star tailbacks develop early

| Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Ronald Vezzani Jr. | For Trib Total Media
Woodland Hills' Miles Sanders works on punt return skills during training camp Monday, Aug. 11, 2014, at the Wolvarena.
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media
West Allegheny running back Chayse Dillon
Lou Raggiunti | For Trib Total Media
Pine-Richland's Connor Slomka
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media
Mars running back Josh Schultheis
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media
Aliquippa running back Kaezon Pugh

It doesn't take long to recognize a talented running back. The sophomore season is often enough.

Woodland Hills' Miles Sanders became the team's starter as a freshman, rare for the Wolverines, and rushed for 738 yards. But he became a 1,000-yard rusher as a star sophomore.

With 1,800 yards and 26 touchdowns in two seasons, the Penn State recruit now has national scholarship offers.

Pine-Richland senior Connor Slomka and Mars senior Josh Schultheis both became 1,000-yard rushers as sophomores. Schultheis had 1,687 yards and 27 touchdowns. Slomka had 1,031 yards.

North Catholic's P.J. Fulmore had 1,824 yards as a sophomore. West Allegheny's Chayse Dillon fell just short with 952 yards his sophomore season.

That puts Steel Valley sophomore DeWayne Murray a little ahead of schedule. Murray rushed for 1,488 yards last season as a freshman, with some 200-yard games and a 325-yard effort against South Allegheny included.

His freshman total came close to matching Hopewell's Rushel Shell, who had 1,516 rushing yards in 2008.

Chris Harlan is staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.

1. Miles Sanders

Woodland Hills, jr., 6-0, 195

A starter since his freshman year, Sanders had 1,088 yards and 13 touchdowns on 128 carries last season for the WPIAL Class AAAA runner-up. Considered among the nation's top running back recruits, Sanders committed to Penn State in July, over Pitt, Nebraska, Michigan, Michigan State and others.

2. Chayse Dillon

West Allegheny, sr., 6-0, 190

A standout two-way starter, Dillon was named first-team all-conference as both a running back and a pass rusher. In a crowded backfield, he had 1,201 yards on 137 carries and scored 13 times for the two-time WPIAL Class AAA champion.

3. Connor Slomka

Pine-Richland, sr., 6-1, 205

A durable runner who scored 17 touchdowns last season, Slomka had 1,144 yards on 201 carries. His junior highlights included five touchdowns in one game and a 73-yarder in another. He committed this month to play football for Army. A versatile athlete, he once was committed to Ohio State for lacrosse.

4. Josh Schultheis

Mars, sr., 6-1, 215

A fullback with halfback ability, Schultheis had 1,645 yards and 24 touchdowns last season on 214 carries. He ranked sixth in yardage among all WPIAL rushers and first among the backs returning this season. His longest touchdown covered 70 yards.

5. DeWayne Murray

Steel Valley, so., 5-10, 180

At just 14 years old, Murray rushed for 1,488 yards on 139 carries last season, drawing early attention to the talented tailback. His first varsity season included a string of 200-yard games. He averaged 10.7 yards per carry, second-best among the returning 1,000-yard rushers.

One to watch: Kaezon Pugh

Aliquippa, jr., 6-1, 205

Nicknamed “Shazam” by his coach, the junior's magic had to wait. Stuck behind D-I recruits Dravon Henry and Terry Swanson, Pugh had 463 yards and nine touchdowns last year on 62 carries. Pitt and WVU have offered.

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