CECILIA — Even when he was in junior high, Raymond Calais Jr. knew the speed would be there.
That was obvious enough, since Calais was already setting eighth-grade sprint events records.
Despite those achievements, there were still questions, Calais says, that were perhaps unanswered when he began playing football.
“People were saying I was too small,” he said. “I took that as a challenge. I know it’s made me more determined to play harder.”
His detractors may have been looking at the team roster, which lists Calais at 5-foot-9 and 165 pounds.
After a season-and-a-half as Cecilia’s starting running back and nearly 2,500 yards later, Calais doesn’t hear many comments about his football abilities anymore.
Last year, Calais ran for just under 1,200 yards. After six games this season, he’s gained 1,254 — some of that achieved by his long touchdown runs, many created from routine pitch and dive plays.
Calais’ performances this season have drawn comparisons to other legendary Cecilia backs such as Jamaican Dartez and Montrel Carter.
Cecilia coach Terry Martin watched former LSU standout Dominic Davis mature as a running back and safety at Breaux Bridge High when Martin was an assistant there.
Since Calais’ emergence as a runner, he’s being asked to make comparisons.
“I’ve been telling people that (Calais) still has a year left (in high school),” Martin said. “I do feel, though, that (Calais) has the natural speed that the others didn’t have.
“Among the great running backs that I’ve seen since I’ve been in coaching, I think (Calais) is the fastest. As a sophomore, Raymond ran a 10.6 100 meters and a 21.6 200. That’s just outstanding.
“One thing I will say is that (Calais) works real hard at getting better, and he’s always in the weight room when he’s supposed to be.
“I think he has all the things a good runner should have, the vision, the balance and the speed. If there’s one thing he has improved at doing this year, it’s running inside,” Martin said.
Calais said he always knew he always wanted to play running back.
“That’s my favorite, my real love,” he said. “I like being able to make the cuts. I like the contact, and I like the feeling of being explosive at being a playmaker.”
Longtime St. Thomas More defensive coordinator Terry Tidwell said Calais is quite a unique runner.
“You have to try to contain him at the line of scrimmage. Once (Calais) gets out on the edge and hits the second level, it’s usually too late,” Tidwell said.
Calais demonstrated that two weeks ago against St. Thomas More, when he took an outside pitch, broke loose around the perimeter and then outran the secondary on a 68-yard touchdown.
Martin said Calais has been helped this season by the development of a passing game, which has kept defenses from stacking the line of scrimmage.
Cecilia quarterback Landon Roberts has already thrown for more than 1,000 yards, giving the Bulldogs (2-4, 1-2) an extra offensive dimension.
“It (the passing game) has really helped me, because it’s given me a different view of what running lanes are there,” Calais said. “(Roberts) really has a good arm and we have a good group of receivers and the O-line is blocking for the throwing game.”
Calais said Cecilia’s offense has also gotten him involved in the passing game on screens and the bubble routes.
The creation of a Cecilia passing attack is an element in which Calais said he would like to become more involved.
“I might like to play at a slot receiver, something I did (at Cecilia) as a freshman,” Calais said.
Calais and Martin said they are noticing that defenses are devising ways aimed at stopping Calais.
“Teams are putting six and eight in the box, and I see the linebackers eyeing me and looking in at me from across the line of scrimmage,” Calais said.
Martin said he’s detected teams becoming more creative at defending Calais.
“Some teams have been setting their defenses a little wider, and they are more concerned about the edge,” Martin said.
Against St. Martinville last Friday, Calais carried 16 times for 231 yards and five touchdowns.
Three plays during the third period accounted for 157 yards and three touchdowns.
So, which does Calais rate as his best game thus far?
“The O-line is always trying to block for me, and they made some great blocks. I really don’t rate my games as the best or whatever. I know last week was one of my best,” Calais said.