Faced with potentially a larger role than he anticipated this season, Tyler Toledo of the Canal Winchester High School football team isn't concentrating on the big picture.
The 5-foot-9, 155-pound sophomore will be depended on to help anchor the Indians' running game at tailback now that expected lead back Jacob Robertson will be out for most, if not all, of the rest of the regular season because of a left ankle injury. That is in addition to Toledo's role as a speedy defensive back, which he flashed early and often in a 24-14 win over Westland on Sept. 21.
Later in the game, his running helped put the Indians ahead to stay, improving them to 3-2 entering their OCC-Capital Division opener Friday, Sept. 29, at home against New Albany.
Toledo does not prioritize his roles.
"I like running the ball; I get yards, I score and I help the team," he said. "On defense, I get stops and make big plays. It's the same thing. I like them both equally."
Toledo has rushed for 289 yards and five touchdowns on 57 carries and has made 14 tackles on defense.
He figures to split time in the backfield with Tanner Conley, a 5-foot-10, 176-pound senior who has rushed for 168 yards and a touchdown on 40 carries.
Toledo rushed for 84 yards on 25 carries against Westland, with all but 12 of those yards coming in the second half. After Canal Winchester took possession near midfield early in the fourth quarter on a fumble by Westland quarterback Tyquwone Workman, seven of its eight plays on the ensuing drive were Toledo runs, including a 6-yard touchdown that gave the Indians the lead for good with 8 minutes, 37 seconds left.
Conley added 98 yards on 19 carries.
"Tanner and I can make moves. We try to avoid the hit," said Toledo, who also had a 1-yard touchdown run in the first half. "Not having Jacob makes a big impact, but we came through. We can't get mad when somebody can't play."
Coach Josh Stratton is optimistic about his offense going forward, not only because of his tandem of running backs but also because of the play of sophomore quarterback Jack Beeler. Making his fourth start, Beeler completed 15 of 22 passes against Westland for 176 yards, a touchdown and an interception, and on the season is 56-for-95 passing for 655 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions.
Injuries have forced changes along the offensive line, including the addition of linebacker Carter Ilich. Among others, left guard Dez Turkson and right guard John Johnson missed the Westland game.
"(Ilich) just started playing offensive line three weeks ago," Stratton said. "We held it together and were able to play tough in the fourth quarter. We try to be better in the fourth quarter than everybody we play. We basically had a few guys come off the bench and play lights-out."
Defending league champion New Albany is 2-3, coming off a 27-26 overtime win over Westerville North on Sept. 22. Quarterback Jalin Jackson completed five of 11 passes for 101 yards and the game-winning touchdown in overtime to Luke Muter as the Eagles broke a three-game losing streak.
Michiah Burton is New Albany's featured back, having rushed for 397 yards and three touchdowns on 90 carries.
Stratton hopes his emphasis on toughness will anchor the team throughout league play.
"We have more of a 'play the next play, don't worry about what just happened' mentality," Stratton said. "We don't want to dwell on things and let negative plays add up."