Record-breaking performance

His parents attested that he was tired late last Wednesday night. He had been pounded on while carrying the ball 51 times in five days. Despite the physical beating, Michael Ford could smile and rest easy — at least for another week.

He had just finished dishing out plenty of punishment himself, to the Sam Houston Broncos. So much so, that he achieved something no other Leesville High School football player had ever managed before in the decades of football history.


Ford had rushed for 335 yards in one game. Former LSU and Miami Dolphins running back Cecil Collins had held the previous school record which was reached twice in his illustrious career in 1994 — once against Booker T. Washington of Shreveport and you guessed it ... Sam Houston.


The strange part of this whirlwind five-day stretch during which Leesville played road games on a Saturday against West Monroe and on Wednesday against Sam Houston, is that Ford really doesn't pay much attention to records or statistics.


"I had no idea I had rushed for that many yards until someone said something to me on the bus," Ford said, as he was preparing to take on Natchitoches-Central at Wampus Cat Stadium. "To be honest, that really doesn't interest me. Records don't mean anything for our season. The important thing is we beat Sam Houston. That was the first time we beat them since I've been here. That means more to me."


Whether Ford was going to go back into the game, as Leesville took possession with 1:30 left in the fourth period leading the Broncos 41-26 was in question.


At that point he had 29 carries for 327 yards and needed six to break the mark.

He went back in for one more carry. It was fitting that it was Ford's favorite play too.


"I like running the 30 draw," he said. "I had fun with that play."


He had enough fun on the last pay to gain eight more yards to secure the record.

The record may have been a bit of a surprise to his head coach, but the fact that Ford scored five of the Wampus Cats' six touchdowns on the night and virtually carried the team on his capable back in the second is not.


"Am I surprised he did that? No. With his work ethic, it's not surprising," Leesville head coach Terence Williams said. "It's expected of him. He's going to play at LSU ... he's that good. Now, we knew at halftime that Sam Houston had come out and hit us in the mouth and we needed Michael to step up. He is our horse and we rode him in the second half."


Quality running backs are supposed to get stronger as the game goes on. For Ford, it's why he ran 110s all summer. It's why he routinely put 400 pounds on the weight bench and pounds the iron while sweat pours onto the floor during the dog days of July while other teenagers were toiling on the beach. It's why LSU coach Les Miles extended an offer to him back in February and his future lies with the defending BCS National Champions.


When the time came to prevent the Cats from going 0-2, he stepped up in a big way. Ford rushed for 207 yards on 18 carries in the second half alone and scored 3 of his 5 TDs after halftime.


"I was getting tired. I even told Travante (Stallworth) a few times to pull the ball and run with it," Ford said with a grin. "I knew I was going to have to step up. That's why I'm in there. To be honest, whether I carry the ball 10 times or 30 times, I'm just going to focus on winning the game."


His record-breaking performance is also a road to perdition of sorts. Prior to his senior year, Ford had read all the Internet chatter about he had lost a step from his sophomore season. He read that he was injury prone after breaking his collarbone in week 3 of his junior season.


With every broken tackle and every gallop across the endzone, he destroyed those myths.


"I was extremely motivated coming into this season," he admitted. "I noticed all that stuff people said about me. That just pushed me more. When I was required to have one workout, I would do two. In my eyes, you can never be fast enough or strong enough. I wanted to show everyone I was ready.”


"I've never seen a player who wants to win more than he does," Williams added. "He went through a lot to prepare himself for this season. He gets a little too amped up at the beginning of games, but once he settles in and gets into a rhythm, he refuses to allow people to stop him."


Never was that more apparent than in week one against Class 5A No. 2 ranked West Monroe, where Leesville opened the season.


Ford had 29 yards at halftime and was in danger of having his string of 100-yard games snapped by a physical and speedy Rebel defense. He had rushed for eight straight 100-yard games at that point dating back to the middle of his sophomore campaign.


He took care of that streak in the third quarter on one run. He blazed down the sidelines after side-stepping a West Monroe linebacker at the line of scrimmage for an 85-yard run. No surprise ... it was a 30 draw.


Ford enters the third week of the season as the leading rusher in the state of Louisiana with 515 yards on 51 carries for an average of 10 yards per carry.

If he keeps up this pace and if the Wampus Cats go deep in the playoffs, he could very well challenge another Collins school record for yardage in one season.


Frankly, he doesn't care.


"Numbers don't mean a thing," he said emphatically. "I thought about that stuff when I was younger. I don't any longer. Football is about winning. Period. If you don't win, what good will numbers do? I am glad I broke the record, but ... right now I just want to beat Natchitoches-Central, and then LaGrange and whoever is next."


Williams has coached many stars who have gone on to achieve greatness in athletics. Players such as LSU standouts Michael Clayton and Glen "Big Baby" Davis, and former Louisville quarterback Stefan LaFors just to name a few. Where does Ford stack up on that list?


"There was a time when I teased Michael because he would ask me who were the best players I coached," Williams said. "He wanted to be on that list and took it to heart when I talked about those other guys. Right now, he's up there with all of them."


It's no surprise Ford rushed for 335 yards, not to those close to him. It won't be a surprise if he does it again this season. You can bet it won't matter if he does. That is, unless his team wins the game.

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