Run game vital to Hart football’s success

Hart's Taden Littleford (6) goes in for Hart's second touchdown in the second quarter against Burbank High at College of the Canyons. Dan Watson/The Signal
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Through only five games this season, Hart running back Taden Littleford already has more carries, rushing yards and rushing touchdowns than he had in 10 games last year.

The senior has rushed for 414 yards and seven touchdowns on 82 carries, and that’s without his updated stats from Friday night’s game against Downey. Compare that to last year, where he had 245 yards and five touchdowns on 45 carries.

“I’ve improved greatly from last year by becoming both faster and stronger than ever,” Littleford said. “I also received training from our coach that enabled me to be better at reading and cutting.”

And it’s not just Littleford’s numbers that have gone up. Hart’s rushing attack as a whole has improved since 2018.

Last year, the Indians accumulated 1,265 yards and 17 touchdowns on the ground in 11 games. 

This season, the Indians have amassed 526 rushing yards and nine touchdowns in just the first four games, and are trending toward surpassing both totals from last year. 

As the feature back, Littleford handles the bulk of the load for the Indians and will continue to get the lion’s share of the carries. 

In addition to getting faster, stronger and learning how to cut better, Littleford credits his linemen for the overall improvement in the run game. 

“More opportunities have improved my game by giving me more experience,” Littleford said. “Our O-line has improved greatly through the year and thus allowed the run game to improve.”

It helps that quarterback Zach Johnson can also move the chains with his feet or with his rocket launcher of an arm. 

A true dual-threat quarterback, Johnson’s ability to run also makes things easier on Littleford and the rest of the backs because opposing defenses have to key in on him even more. 

“Zach, having the ability to both throw and run, forces defenses to constantly be on alert for either of us taking the ball, which creates opportunities for major plays,” Littleford said. “Defenses most often don’t have a spy on him. His throwing ability does make it easier for the run game to develop.”

As Hart prepares to enter its Foothill League schedule starting with Saugus on Friday, the Indians will need the running game to continue firing on all cylinders. 

League games tend to be more grind-it-out type contests with fewer offensive possessions, so being able to run the ball successfully will be key to picking up wins.

“The run game will be very important for our upcoming games,” Littleford said. “A dual-threat offense creates distress and confusion for a defense, it is imperative that both the pass and run games are able to generate yards.”

Hart will face Saugus at College of the Canyons, with the Centurions as the designated home team. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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