FOOTBALL: Senior Chauncey Washington of South Torrance will make his mark as one of the South Bay's best backs before moving on to USC.
By Bob Holtzman
Chris Ferragamo coached some of the best prep backs in South Bay history, including Stanley Wilson, Freeman McNeil and Jamelle Holieway. The former Banning and Harbor College coach thinks he's watching another great one at South Torrance this season in senior running back Chauncey Washington.
"He's as good as the best I've ever coached," said Ferragamo, a volunteer assistant at South. "He ranks with the best I've ever seen, and I've seen a lot of the great ones."
Washington doesn't know where he fits in historically, but is confident of his ability.
"For a fact, I know I'm the best running back in the area," Washington said. "I finally realized it this season. My dad told me when I was younWASHINGTON/ D3 WASHINGTON: South back has 460 yards and 7 TDs FROM PAGE D1 ger I could be, and I know I'm up there now."
The 6-foot-1, 215-pound senior rushed for 460 yards and seven touchdowns on 51 carries in South's first two games this year, proving his words.
But now, an injured knee could put the damper on a senior season that's supposed to highlight a prep career. It may force him to miss one of the South Bay's most anticipated football games, an intersectional matchup against San Pedro at 7 p.m. on Friday night.
"This is the worst injury I've ever had," admitted Washington. "I've never had to sit out a game in my whole life."
Washington gained notoriety as a sophomore, when he started for the Spartans over two senior running backs. He gained 1,548 yards on 179 carries that year.
He topped that his junior season with 1,872 yards with 24 touchdowns on 225 carries to earn Daily Breeze All-Area first-team honors. With breakaway speed, linebacker-like hitting power and scissor-style cutting ability, Washington tears through opposing defenses.
"Right now, he is probably the best high school running back I've ever seen," said John Walsh, South's offensive coordinator and a former quarterback at BYU, who prepped at West Torrance and Carson. "He's got speed, power and hands. He's the complete package."
Washington orally committed to attend and play football at USC next year. He's already earned a qualifying SAT score with a 1030, and according to Coach Don Gereau, has the GPA and core units necessary to qualify.
Still, Washington nearly jeopardized his college future last spring.
When Brett Peabody was removed as South's head coach and accepted a volunteer assistant's job at Hawthorne, Washington considered following his former coach.
"My mind was going crazy," said Washington. "I didn't know what kind of coach we would get. I didn't know what kind of offense we would run. Then, it took the school so long to find a new coach, that really drove me crazy."
Washington said he gained some valuable advice from the USC coaching staff during his recruiting process about staying at South, where he was doing well in class.
"What kept me there was the school, education-wise," Washington said. "I had my classes and everything was set up (for college)."
Washington appreciated USC coaches' ef forts to make sure he wouldn't damage his future by transferring.
"It felt good to know they were not wanting me to go there just for football, but also were thinking about my education," he said.
While USC appears to hold a promising future for Washington, the tailback wants to focus on his present. Trainer Mike Taylor said he's confident the knee injury won't affect Washington for long. Washington believes he can overcome it and play Friday, despite struggling to make cuts.
"I'm getting better, but the thing is, now that this injury is out there, people will try to go for my knees because they know they can't really stop me," Washington said matter-of-factly. "I'll just think of a new game plan and a new style of running. I'll mix it up in the game to get by them or run them over."
Washington can definitely do both.
"The thing that is most surprising is his power and he's tenacious," Gereau said. "He doesn't want to be tackled. You can see his speed; he can outrun people who have the angle. Just his ability to run through tacklers. I wasn't aware he was that powerful."
Gereau just hopes he's powerful enough to overcome his latest injury by Friday.