New Albany football coach Bubba Kidwell knew what he had entering this season in his top two running backs, Reed Hall and Mechi McCaulley.

Still, Kidwell is surprised through six weeks not that Hall and McCaulley account for almost three-quarters of the Eagles' total yards, but how they have done so.

"We knew about Mechi because of what he did to us on the scout team last year against our No. 1 defense. We were senior-dominated and we had trouble stopping him," Kidwell said. "Reed was our third-leading rusher so we knew what he could do, but we also knew we had a pretty good, athletic offensive line coming back. Still, I'm not sure I thought they'd have this many yards rushing.

"Reed has excellent vision. (It's the) same with Mechi. Both of them play bigger than what they are."

Hall, a 5-foot-10, 158-pound senior, crossed the 1,000-yard mark for the season during a 41-27 loss at Canal Winchester on Oct. 4 and currently has 1,088 yards and 12 touchdowns on 164 carries. McCaulley, a 5-8, 138-pound junior, has added 89 carries for 703 yards and five touchdowns.

"They're our little but mighty running backs," tight end Patrick Gurd said.

New Albany is 3-3 overall and 0-1 in the OCC-Capital Division entering a Friday, Oct. 11, home game against Newark.

The Eagles have amassed 2,014 of their 2,451 total yards on the ground, averaging 7.7 yards per carry as well as 32.2 points and 408.5 yards per game.

Hall was in line to lead the ground game, having backed up 2019 graduates Michiah Burton -- who now plays at Akron -- and Alex Cox as a junior. Hall wasted no time seizing his opportunity, rushing for 202 yards and three touchdowns on 28 carries Aug. 30 in a season-opening 48-21 loss to Westerville South.

Two weeks later, he set the program's single-game rushing record with 340 yards to go with three touchdowns on 29 carries in a 41-14 win at Licking Heights.

"During a normal game, nobody will tell me how many rushing yards I have. They were letting me know a little bit," Hall said, laughing. "I'm running through these huge holes and doing what I have to do when I get into the open field to get those extra yards. I attacked the weight room hard. I feel like I got a lot stronger. I might not look much bigger, but I feel a lot stronger."

McCaulley, whose given name is Demetrius but has gone by his nickname since elementary school, is embracing his new responsibilities and invites challenges.

"People say I'm weird for it but sometimes, I like it when a lineman might miss a block because that gives me an extra challenge to do something for myself," McCaulley said. "I guess I'm shifty and quick, but I like taking people on."

Although he doubles as a pass-catching tight end, Gurd plays a key role on the line when the Eagles run sweeps. Center Tim Marshall anchors the line inside, flanked by guards Kevin Spelman and Jaron Webster and tackles Braedon Elwer and Garrett St. John.

"Down blocking is what our line does at least 75 percent of the time," Gurd said. "Create a hole, get a kick out and block on the sweeps. That's a huge part of my role."

Two lost fumbles and an interception doomed New Albany against Canal Winchester despite McCaulley's 170 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries.

Newark fell to 0-6 with a 37-16 home loss to Big Walnut on Oct. 4. Logan Swonger rushed for 79 yards on 14 carries and caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Jaden Woods, but the Wildcats were outgained 473-222.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

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