When asked why he gave the football to his tailbacks so often, legendary USC coach John McKay quipped, “The ball’s not heavy. … They don’t belong to a union.”
For one night, Oceanside coach David Rodriguez morphed into a McKay disciple. Rodriguez called on senior running back Jonathan Segi again and again and again Friday night at Morse, and Segi responded.
The 6-foot, 205-pound back gained 236 yards on 29 carries and scored five touchdowns as No. 10-ranked Oceanside came from behind to defeat Morse 35-29. Both teams are 1-1.
Segi’s breakout performance offset a gallant effort by Morse’s Martell Irby. Lining up at running back, quarterback, slotback and safety on a dripping hot night, Irby delivered crushing tackles, plus rushed for 178 yards and three TDs on 15 carries. The touchdowns covered 92, 5 and 1 yard. Irby passed for 79 yards.
Amazing,” Rodriguez said of Irby’s performance. “But we knew that on film. He just confirmed the fabric of the young man.”
Segi had not played running back for the Pirates until this season. He started at middle linebacker last year, then was moved into the featured offensive role when the anticipated starter suffered an injury last spring.
He demonstrated a blend of power and speed Friday night, scoring from 4, 1, 50, 3 and 1 yard.
“As of tonight, he was putting us on his back,” said Rodriguez.
In tears at midfield after the game, Segi said, “I put my all into this game.”
He was quick to praise his mammoth offensive line, tackles Donovan Laie, Isaiah Kaleopa-Tuisee, guards Mason Beczec and Josh Garcia, plus center Jack Berry.
“Couldn’t do it without them,” said Segi.
With the victory, Oceanside avoided its first 0-2 start since 2002.
Norcross is a freelance writer.