Tommy Bair isn't taking his stint at running back for the Watterson High School football team for granted.
That the junior was even in position to put together a 205-yard rushing performance that included two touchdowns on 29 carries during the Eagles' 17-14 loss to Cleveland Benedictine on Sept. 21 is something he appreciates even more considering the injuries he endured the past two seasons.
"It's kind of a special feeling running the ball," Bair said. "You don't really get that feeling in any other sport."
Bair's emergence the past few weeks followed what could be considered a pair of lost seasons.
As a freshman, hamstring injuries dogged his progress, and because of low numbers in his class, the Eagles played only a handful of freshman games that season.
Then, during a preseason practice last fall, Bair felt his right hamstring pop.
The injury kept him out for more than two months, limiting him to mostly special teams for the junior varsity.
Bair also saw limited time at quarterback the past two years and was expected to see significant time at linebacker this season before his role evolved into No. 1 running back.
The Eagles fell to 2-4 with a 49-28 loss at Hartley in their CCL opener Sept. 28. They travel Friday, Oct. 5, to Youngstown Ursuline.
Bair has rushed for 581 yards and six touchdowns on 108 carries. Against Hartley, he had 72 yards rushing and one score on 11 carries.
"Even last year he was our third-string quarterback, so this is his first year playing running back maybe since grade school," coach Brian Kennedy said. "Tommy was a kid who was basically hurt all of last year, but he worked hard in the offseason and he's having a phenomenal year. He's a very intelligent kid. With running backs, you can't really teach vision. He just has that vision of being able to see the hole. I don't know what his 40 time is, but he's football fast."
Watterson is 4-0 all-time against Ursuline, including beating the Fighting Irish 27-24 in 2002. That season, the Eagles won the Division III state championship and Ursuline was a Division IV state semifinalist.
The Irish won three consecutive Division V state titles from 2008-10 and were Division III state semifinalists in 2015 before slipping to 3-7 in 2016 and 2-8 last year. They are 0-6 this year after losing to Louisville 45-20 on Sept. 28.
Kennedy believes it's been several seasons since a Watterson running back has produced a 200-yard game.
Bair rushed for 113 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries in a 17-14 victory over Olentangy Orange on Aug. 31 and had six catches for 160 yards and a touchdown and 80 yards and another score on 14 carries in a 25-20 win over Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit on Sept. 7.
Senior Drew Davis and junior Mason Graney have been mainstays at tackle, with senior Max Balyeat moving from guard to center for the Hartley game after senior center Grant Holsinger was lost to injury.
"Our running game wasn't big last year and our blocking scheme is similar, but we've got some seniors up there leading the line," Bair said. "I feel like it's a different atmosphere in the locker room this year with everybody working together.
"I wasn't really sure if (the coaches) were going to have me on offense or defense this year. They try to keep as few people going both ways as possible to keep as many people healthy as we can. We definitely feel like we've gotten better each week."