The backyard ritual continued for several months.
A 10-year-old Moises Haynes would charge at his 6-foot-2, 250-pound father in an attempt to bowl him over.
“He told me, ‘Run me over.’” Moises recalls. “I was like, ‘You sure, Dad?’”
Finally, after many tries, the Valencia High running-back-to-be dipped his right shoulder and toppled his old man.
“I felt like I could take on anyone after that,” Moises says.
The style stuck, Haynes slamming into daring-enough defenders and plowing through preteens.
Now a junior, he wasn’t expected to make such a jaw-rattling impact on varsity this season (1,574 rushing yards heading into Valencia’s CIF-Southern Section Division 2 semifinal Friday night at San Clemente), but the 200-pounder knows no other way.
“It’s like controlled chaos,” Valencia coach Larry Muir says of Haynes’ running style. “He has good vision on the run, but sometimes he slams into things.”
Haynes certainly didn’t see this opportunity coming, not this soon.
The plan was for senior Effie Davalos, after a productive 2015 campaign, to be the Vikings’ starting running back in 2016, with Haynes getting touches.
Then Davalos broke his leg during a preseason team workout.
“That was devastating,” Muir says of the injury to Davalos, who returned midway through the year but has since dealt with more injuries. “At the same time, Moises has been terrific.”
Haynes has rushed for 100 or more yards in eight games this season. He’s never posted less than 80.
He rushed for 256 yards in a non-league win over Newbury Park on Sept. 16, scoring three of his 21 rushing touchdowns along the way. He’s tied for the program’s eighth most rushing TDs in a season.
His 1,574 yards place him 10th on Valencia’s single-season list, and another 100-yard game would propel him to sixth, ahead of any mark current New York Giant Shane Vereen set at the school.
After practice Tuesday, Haynes said he was aware of the school’s rich lineage of running backs, which includes stars like former UCLA Bruin Manuel White in the late 1990s, Vereen in the early 2000s and more recently retired UCLA player Steven Manfro.
Valencia Athletic Director Brian Stiman, who coached the Vikings from 1995 to 2004, said each running back employs a different style, but all the great ones share a common trait — vision.
“They can all see where the holes are and anticipate where the holes are going to be — when to hit it and when to adjust,” Stiman says. “They all have it, and Moises has it, too.”
Haynes also has excellent balance.
“Some of the best balance I’ve ever seen by a running back,” Muir says.
The Vikings’ offensive balance has benefited.
Haynes — running behind a solid offensive line of left tackle Parker Kernek, left guard Justin Aguirre, center Eric Lieberman, right guard Cole Edwards, right tackle Cody Paul and super sub Tanner Miller — has helped open passing lanes for quarterback Aaron Thomas, who is also in the All-Santa Clarita Valley Player of the Year conversation and isn’t immune from being impressed by his teammate.
“(I like) how well he’s able to get to the hole in the line and then bounce off tacklers and shed blocks and get up the field,” Thomas said earlier this season.
Haynes models his game after Raiders’ legend Bo Jackson because of Jackson’s combination of speed and an ability to plow through opponents, something Haynes has done at Valencia since his freshman year.
He admitted to feeling guilty last year for leveling junior varsity opponents. At times he still does.
“If I run over someone younger than me in practice, I will pick them up and ask them, ‘You OK? You good?’ Because I’m not that kind of player,” Haynes says.
With a trip to the Vikings’ fifth CIF-SS title game, and potentially their first-ever title, on the line, it’s hard to believe he’ll be so merciful to San Clemente defenders Friday night.
“He only knows one gear,” Muir says.