VIDEO: Sumner teammates in TNT challenge
Connor Wedington has a lot of hair. Josh Riley has little.
Riley played percussion in the band the past three years. Wedington keeps a respectable shoe collection.
Wedington has a few dance moves … while teammates say they have painstakingly witnessed Riley’s.
But for their differences off of the football field, the running backs for the Sumner High School football team complement each other so seamlessly on it.
No other team in the 3A South Puget Sound League has two running backs who have more combined yards than Wedington and Riley (1,371) do for unbeaten and fourth-ranked Sumner (6-0) this season.
Wedington leads the league with 802 rushing yards on 96 carries while Riley has 79 carries for 569 yards. Both are team captains.
“I think Connor runs like (former Chicago Bears running back) Gale Sayers and Josh is more like Roger Craig (the former San Francisco 49ers, Los Angles Raiders and Minnesota Vikings running back), though they probably don’t even know who those players are,” Sumner coach Keith Ross said.
“Connor is more of a smooth, silky, open-field runner. Josh is more of make-one-cut-and-go.”
Ross said he’s never coached a player as gifted in the open-field and making defenders miss as Wedington.
So Riley, a senior, said he’s tried to learn a few moves from the junior.
“He jukes everybody out every play,” Riley said. “So honestly this year, even though I’m a senior, I started picking up on Connor and how he jukes people out because I couldn’t do that last year very much.”
“We got homecoming coming up, so I had to show him a couple moves last year,” Wedington said.
It’s hard to believe Sumner would be where it is — the front-runner for the 3A SPSL title — if not for them.
The Spartans have an inexperienced offensive line — an eclectic group ranging from 5-foot-10 to 6-foot-6 that Ross calls “misfits” — and a first-year starting sophomore quarterback in Ross’ son, Luke.
But the coach could build a good team around Riley and Wedington.
“With our smaller offensive line, we are built on split back (offense),” Ross said. “We have to let teams know that they can’t cheat on one or the other.”
But that means they had to learn to share. Ross told Wedington before the season started not to be jealous of Riley’s carries.
Enumclaw coach Mark Gunderson said his team’s entire game plan in its 35-7 loss to Sumner on Sept. 18 was centered around making Wedington a nonfactor because he had run for 199 yards against the Hornets last year.
Riley ran for 137 yards on 13 carries. Wedington had 14 carries for 101 yards (his lowest output of the season).
“We spent 90 percent of our time focusing on how we were going to limit (Wedington) beating us,” Gunderson said. “We definitely wanted to make someone else beat us. The Riley kid, unfortunately, did.”
Ross said Wedington wasn’t thrilled with his role that game.
“We used Connor as a decoy a little bit and he didn’t like that,” Ross said. “But I was OK with Connor because you want your alpha to want the ball. That’s a good learning experience because it’s a team game. We want him to want the ball, but that was our plan that game and it worked.”
Sumner doesn’t have specific run plays designed only for Wedington or only for Riley — who holds the school track and field team’s record in the high jump at 6-8 1/4 and is committed to the University of Montana as a decathlete.
It’s not like one is a bruising, short-yardage back and the other the big-play threat. They are interchangeable because both have speed — only Riley’s is more top-end while Wedington is more agile.
“Defenses make the mistake of putting all their attention on Connor and they kind of forget about Josh,” Sumner right guard Ian Pudney said. “We want to get Connor in space because he can beat any defender one on one. But I think when we need three or four yards, Josh is more of the power guy. He gets whacked in there and he gets up ready to go every time.”
Both also play key roles on defense — Riley at linebacker and Wedington at defensive back. Wedington returns punts and kicks, too (he leads the 3A SPSL with 1,249 all-purpose yards).
“I feel if one of us got all the carries it would tire and wear us out,” Wedington said. “I have confidence that Josh can do it all and I’m pretty sure he’s the same way with me. We can both run people over if we have to or spread it out if we have to. We just complement each other in so many ways.”
Even if they are so different off the field.
“Josh has been with the band his whole life and was a little nerdy, and Connor has always been silky smooth,” Ross said. “It’s cool to see what football can do because I don’t know if they would be friends otherwise.”
RATE YOUR RUNNING BACK
Who better to gauge Sumner’s two dynamic running backs, Josh Riley and Connor Wedington, than their offensive linemen? Four of them — right tackle Jacob Clark, right guard Ian Pudney, center Kelley Kraeger and left tackle Seth Carnahan — gave their votes to questions regarding their running backs’ talents in areas on and off the football field.
Advantage: Josh Riley
Clark: Got to say Josh. He can get going.
Pudney: They got a few differences, but when it comes to the basics, they are pretty similar. I guess Josh would get a slight edge.
Advantage: Connor Wedington
Pudney: No question
▪ MARIO KART
Pudney: I just got to say Connor because he whupped me in Mario Kart in our big tournament Friday night. But the quarterback, Luke Ross, came out with the ‘W’.
Pudney: I haven’t played Halo in so long. But probably Josh gets it.
▪ HEAD OF HAIR
Clark: It’s not even close.
▪ SINGING VOICE
Pudney: I’ve never heard Connor really sing, so have to say Josh. Connor is pretty quiet. And Josh is in band, so he understands how it’s going to go.
▪ DANCE MOVES
Pudney: I did watch Josh play Just Dance about a week ago, so I have to say Connor. It was ... not good.
Pudney: Josh is a funny guy.
▪ TIEBREAKER: FASHION SENSE
Pudney: Have you seen Connor’s shoes? He’s got a good shoe game. His whole basement is lined with shoes.