The senior running back has 4,000 yards, and a future college career, in his sights.
By JOE SCALZO
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
BOARDMAN -- Picture this.
You're just a sophomore, but before your first varsity game, you earn the starting tailback spot on a Division I playoff team.
You rush for 99 yards and a touchdown in your first game.
Then, in your second game, you top 100 yards and score a touchdown to lead your team to a 26-21 upset of the best team in the state, St. Ignatius.
You're Boardman's Evan Beard and you're rewarded with this: A reminder that you're just a sophomore.
"The seniors made me give a lap dance to another player after the game," Beard said.
What was the penalty for not doing it?
"Who knows?" he said. "I wasn't going to find out."
Two years and 3,000 yards later, Beard has built an impressive resume. He has obliterated the school's all-time rushing record. He's being recruited by Duke, Wake Forest and several Mid American Conference schools. He's a co-captain, carries a 3.3 grade point average and has a good chance of gaining 4,000 yards for his career.
"He's just been a pleasure to coach," said Boardman coach Garry Smith. "You don't often see a back of his caliber."
Wildcat killer: Beard (6-foot, 220 pounds) rushed 24 times for 206 yards and two touchdowns in last Saturday's 47-27 loss to St. Ignatius and was named Steel Valley Conference player of the week. It was the third straight year Beard ran for more than 100 yards against the Wildcats.
"I don't think anyone's ever done that," Beard, who also plays linebacker, said of the milestone. "At least that's what my coaches tell me."
Beard began playing football in seventh grade. His coach, Jay Dana, convinced him to drop soccer and try out for the football team, even though he wasn't very familiar with the sport.
"I was curious," he said. "I always liked watching it so I thought I'd try it."
It was a nice fit. In eighth grade, Beard realized he was "pretty good" and by his sophomore year, he had set a goal of starting.
His chance came sooner than he expected.
"We're always reluctant to play sophomores," Smith said. "But it became very evident in our scrimmage against Poland that year that we were going to start him [for the first game]."
The gamble -- if you can call it that -- paid off. Boardman went 8-4 that season and Beard had the best two games of his career in the playoffs. He set a school record with 245 yards in a 35-28 win over Brunswick, then broke it the next week with a 248-yard effort in a 31-28 loss to Pickerington.
Beard finished with 1,350 yards that year and added 1,380 his junior year. Add the 396 yards he's gained in two games this season, and Beard has 3,126 for his career.
Keys: He credits two things for his success, health and opportunity.
"I guarantee I have more carries than anyone in school history," said Beard, who normally has 25-30 carries per game. "I just got lucky the first couple years. But I want to eclipse the 4,000-yard mark and I think I'll be able to do it if I stay healthy."
Beard's biggest improvement over the past two years has been his speed, Smith said. Beard now runs about a 4.5-second 40-yard dash and Smith says he's gotten much quicker.
"He's always been able to carry 20-25 times a game, even as a sophomore," Smith said. "But he's definitely quicker now."
Beard also plays basketball and runs track, although he may drop basketball this year. He's leaning toward attending Duke next fall, where he will major in business. He bench presses over 350 pounds, squats 380, and is one of the Boardman's leaders -- both vocally and by example, Smith said.
Beard is also quick to credit Boardman's mammoth offensive line for his success. Center Kevin Tuminello, guards Dave Sypert and Jason Mechling and tackles Steve Vallos and John Greco combine to average 244 pounds.
"I think Steve Vallos is one of the best lineman in the area," Beard said.
On his mind: Beard has a friendly rivalry with Warren Harding senior running back Maurice Clarett, an Ohio State recruit. Both earned special mention all-state in Division I last year. But when asked about the best players he's ever faced, Beard points to Clarett's older brother, Marcus, along with former Chaney quarterback Brad Smith.
For now, his focus is on the Cowboys. Chaney is led by senior quarterback Juan Serrano, who was named City Series player of the week after leading the Cowboys (2-0) to a 13-7 win over Canfield last Friday.
The Spartans (1-1) play host to Chaney Friday night.
"They've got one of the better defensive lines we'll see this year," Beard said. "But they don't have a lot of depth. We'll just keep pounding until they break. But they're tough kids. Coach [Ron] Berdis always wins with what he has. It'll be a good game."