Central City's unselfish rushing duo hopes to lead Wildcats to playoffs

Wade McKinney, Michael Walker will share carries as Wildcats seek turnaround

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CENTRAL CITY – Wade McKinney has been a running back from his first day in Central City’s football program.

Michael Walker was forced to run the ball when injury sidelined a teammate.

Now, the Wildcats have found room in their backfield for both of them.

The senior rushing duo will combine to form a two-prong rushing attack and help lead Central City, which is looking for its first winning season and playoff appearance since 2008. The Wildcats open the season Thursday, hosting Lone Tree at 7 p.m.

“The two get along great,” Central City Coach Matt Miers said. “They complement each other well.

“Wade runs angry. He’s a very powerful runner. He’s gotten faster. ... Michael is faster. He is quicker to the hole.”

McKinney has been a mainstay in the Wildcats lineup since his freshman year. He ranked among leaders in rushes and tackles his first season. McKinney has been the team’s leading rusher each of the last two seasons, including 763 yards and 10 touchdowns a year ago.

The 6-foot-1, 185-pounder said he is more of a battering ram.

“I’m pretty much a body blows guy,” McKinney said. “They give me the ball and run just straight ahead.”

Interestingly, Walker is bigger at 6-3 and 200 pounds. He adds a little more speed, starting last season at tight end.

An assistant encouraged Miers to give Walker a chance, so he transitioned to running back at midseason when McKinney suffered a broken hand. He rushed for 445 yards and four TDs.

Walker had never carried the ball before but caught on quickly with some tutelage from coaches.

“It was interesting at first,” Walker said. “Turned out I really liked it. I really enjoyed it.”

McKinney has been a tailback, but will move to fullback. The switch makes room for Walker to step into the tailback spot. Both embraced the change and will share carries. Miers described them as “No. 1” and “No. 1-A.”

“I don’t have a problem with that at all,” McKinney said. “I think it’s better for the team.”

Walker shared similar sentiments.

“We want the best for everybody,” Walker said. “We can’t be selfish.”

The pair have the potential to cause problems for opposing defenses. You won’t be able to key on just one and could open up the passing game for quarterback Braxton Van Alst, who threw for 543 yards last year.

“We have the speed and the strength,” Walker said. “Our line is tremendous. With our quarterback, it comes together really nicely.

“Kyle Marsh has looked good at receiver. Those three guys are the biggest playmakers we have.”

Two capable running backs is a luxury but they lose effectiveness without linemen to block for them. The Wildcats are big with eight players measured at 6-0 or taller.

The offensive line averages a “healthy” 231 pounds, according to Miers. Cody Gray (6-0, 205), Wyatt Starry (5-8, 210), Nile Coghlan (6-1, 290), T.J. Ayers (6-0, 230) and Keegan Kula (5-11, 220) are expected to lead the way in the trenches.

“For a school our size, that’s a good line,” Miers said. “They move pretty well, too.”

Central City has endured some rough seasons and has won three games each of the last two seasons. The Wildcats are dominated by upperclassmen and a deeper roster, coming in at 23 players. Tight end/defensive end Cody Gray and wideout/defensive back Trey Holub join McKinney and Walker as all-district returners.

The Wildcats have lifted harder in the offseason and hope it helps them accomplish some lofty goals. One being a playoff berth.

“We’ve been getting better and better every year,” McKinney said. “We’re ready.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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