Ephraim Lee assumed a substantial workload last season, logging more rushing attempts than all but three area football players.
There is no question Marian Central wants the ball in its star running back’s hands as often as possible, which is fine with Lee.
“I have to step into my leadership role with my game and take the load for the team and carry it,” Lee said. “I’m looking forward to it. I’m actually pretty excited about getting more carries. If the coaches want me to carry more, I’ll definitely do it.”
Lee (6-foot-1, 185 pounds) is the area’s leading returning rusher after gaining 1,323 yards on 194 carries last season for the 11-1 Hurricanes. With dynamic two-way threat quarterback Chris Streveler, the two-time Northwest Herald Player of the Year, now at Minnesota, Lee will be the focal point of Marian’s offense.
The Hurricanes, ranked No. 6 in Class 5A by The Associated Press, visit Crystal Lake South at 7 p.m. Friday at Ken Bruhn Field.
“We’re going to have to get some holes for [Lee] and get him the ball,” Marian coach Ed Brucker said. “Right now, we have a fairly inexperienced line, that’s going to be the biggest key. He does everything well. He blocks well, he catches the ball very well. We might get him out of the backfield [for passes] and do some of that. That’s a mismatch we can take advantage of.”
Lee averaged 16 carries a game for the Hurricanes and finished second in the area in rushing to Cary-Grove fullback Kyle Norberg’s 2,218. Lee attended several one-day camps over the summer and has Yale, Harvard and Holy Cross at the top of his list of NCAA Division I schools. He plans on sending more game videos out after the first games this season.
“With the seniors from last year gone, I have to take a leadership role and set an example of how guys should play,” Lee said. “Give full effort, always working hard on the field. That’s what I want to, set an example of what this whole football team and program’s about.”
Lee says he often lifted with Marian’s linemen at the school’s weightroom. He also trained at Davis Speed Center with speed trainer Dave Davis and strength trainer Quint Zambon.
“He’s going to be an even bigger part than he was last year,” offensive tackle Nate Patterson said. “He knows what he’s doing more. The last five games or so he starter getting in a rhythm last year. He’s going to pick up where he left off last year.”
South might see the best back on its schedule in the opener, which Gators coach Chuck Ahsmann realizes will be challenging.
“It’s not like college where you can schedule a I-AA team or like the pros where you get four preseason games,” Ahsmann said. “This counts, and it’s a big game out of the box. He’s fast and he’s stronger. He’s not a back who’s afraid to run inside.”
Lee’s 28 ACT score and 3.7 GPA make him attractive to the Ivy League schools, while his size and speed likely will grab interest from scholarship schools, as well. New starting quarterback Billy Bahl feels more comfortable having Lee beside him in their backfield.
“He’s so fast, so quick, whenever he gets the ball, he’s a threat,” Bahl said. “He takes the pressure off me.”