Legette’s comeback puts CF foes in a real ‘Catch 22’

David Legette knows his coaches could have moved on for good.

They could have said he just wasn’t working out and utilized other options for 2018, and certainly not game-planned around him as much as they do.

Instead, Carolina Forest head coach Marc Morris and offensive coordinator Shane Dular elected to go all in on their talented running back who spent most of last year hobbled by a seemingly unshakable injury.

“They had a lot of faith in me and faith in my potential as a player,” Legette said. “They knew I could make a difference. I appreciate that. I feel like it’s my job to come out here and play my heart out for them.”

Legette is having a breakout season, leading the team in carries, rushing yards and touchdowns, something Morris thought would be the case last year.

However, in 2017 during his sophomore season, Legette limped to a relatively low 323 yards and four touchdowns on 68 carries. He never gained more than 68 yards in a game while others topped the century mark regularly — and the bulk of Legette’s production came in the five of the first six games. It was a far cry from the lofty expectations Morris was heaping on him during the preseason.

The reason for that was clear.

Legette suffered a high-ankle sprain on the first carry of the game in week three against Hoggard (N.C.). He had to be helped off the field, the beginning of a what would develop into frustrating season individually.

On top of missing three complete games the rest of the way following several ankle tweaks, he also averaged fewer than five yards per carry and was able to get more than eight carries in a game just one time in the final nine contests.

It all added up to those high preseasons expectations amounting to just 14 percent of the team’s rushing yards for the year.

“Sometimes in high school football, we ask a lot from a lot of kids. Every now and again, we’ve got to look at ourselves and say that’s a sophomore running around,” Morris said. “How does a sophomore handle it? Are their bodies mature enough to handle playing at the 5A level and run the ball as much as we want? He knew the challenge of getting in the weight room and getting himself bigger, faster and stronger — not just to play better, but to withstand some of these hits.”

To his credit, Legette didn’t mope. And once the season was over, he went to work getting his body ready for a second chance. He put on a few pounds of muscle, and the 5-foot-10 tailback is now up over 160 pounds, a more sustainable weight for what he’s asked to do, which is quite a bit.

Through five games for the still undefeated Panthers, Legette has piled up 657 yards and nine touchdowns while average 7.9 yards per carry. He has three 100-yard games (including a 239-yard performance against Colleton County) and is the clear-cut favorite to get the handoff when Carolina Forest needs a big rushing play.

There will be plenty of those Friday, when Carolina Forest heads to West Florence in what will be the biggest step toward a potential Region VI-5A championship. Win that game, and the Panthers (5-0 overall, 2-0 in region play) would be in the drivers seat for the title.

Another big night there would continue draw attention from the college scouts who have started to look at Legette in a relatively short time period. Morris quickly points out that Legette is a “winner 24/7”; the junior sports a 4.0 grade-point average. It will open up more opportunities for him as a potential NCAA Division-I walk-on (if he doesn’t get a football scholarship to one of those schools). Either way, football could help him get to the goal he’s had since he was 5 years old.

Legette wants to be a dentist.

For now, he’s thinking about contributing what he does toward more victories for the budding program and appreciating his health. That was harder to do this time last year.

“I tried to stay prayed up,” he said. “I asked God to keep me healthy when I was in the game. I was just hoping that this week would be different. This week I wouldn’t turn [the ankle] again and I could stay on the field and stay in the game.”

That hasn’t been an issue so far this fall.

And that earlier trust is being rewarded.

“Fortunately for him, it’s showed. Fortunately for us, it’s showed,” Morris said. “It’s his time.”

Photo by Janet Morgan/myhorrynews

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