Highland Baptist running back Bronte Griffin churning out big yardage _lowres

Advocate Photo by BRAD KEMP Highland Baptist running back Bronte Griffin takes the ball from quarterback Logan Jordan during Tuesday's practice. Griffin, a freshman has rushed 157 times for 1,436 yards and 18 touchdowns.

Highland Baptist freshman fullback Brontre Griffin had already done some of his best work Friday in a back-and-forth District 7-1A contest with Hanson Memorial.

Griffin scored four touchdowns in his most productive game, before getting summoned once more with the Bears facing a one-point deficit with just less than seven minutes to play.

Highland needed eight plays on its game-winning drive, handing the ball off four times to Griffin, who eventually delivered his fifth and final score — a 3-yard effort with 4:04 to play. For good measure, he added a two-point conversion in a 36-29 victory to highlight his 32-carry, 274-yard evening.

“I was happy with myself,” Griffin said. “I was happy with my team’s blocking. I knew I had to almost step up as a leader. The way my coaches prepared me during the week I knew I was capable of doing that and pushed myself.”

In a district that boasts some of the state’s top rushers, Griffin has emerged in his first season as not only one of the league’s best, but the state as well.

The 5-foot-9, 185-pound Griffin has recorded 10 straight 100-yard games since he started in last year’s Division IV playoffs for Highland Baptist and has attained a level of dependability and consistency uncommon for freshmen.

Griffin has carried 157 times for 1,436 yards (9.14 average) and 18 touchdowns heading into Friday’s key District 7-1A game when Highland (5-3, 2-2) travels to Youngsville to face Ascension Episcopal (6-2, 3-1) at 7 p.m.

“We knew he would be extremely productive,” Highland coach Artie Liuzza said. “I don’t know if we knew he would have the type of gaudy numbers he’s had. The best part for me is he’s getting these big number games against teams like Central Catholic and Hanson. That’s been the surprising thing.”

Griffin, whose brother Brody is a junior tight end, said he doesn’t separate one game from the other and attributed his success against some of the district’s upper echelon teams — 225 yards against Central Catholic and last week’s career-best versus Hanson — to his teammates’ belief in his ability.

“I see the bigger games where I can push myself harder, strive for my potential,” Griffin said. “I push myself through every game, and I know my team’s going to back me up whenever I need them. I just want to play for them.”

Griffin was a full-time starter during his eighth-grade season, playing exclusively at defensive end with the varsity, while working at fullback in middle school in the event something happened to Highland’s varsity starter.

With the Bears making their first postseason trip as an LHSAA member school against Houma Christian, starter Zach Gibbons was injured and unable to play, opening the door for the start of Griffin’s career that included a 160-yard outing in a 28-8 victory.

“There was pressure on me going into that game as the starting fullback,” Griffin said. “I didn’t go into the game as confident as the other veterans, but I saw that other people would back me up if I played my game.”

Liuzza realized such a performance under extenuating circumstances signaled brighter days ahead for Griffin.

“We knew there wouldn’t be a lot of waiting time for him to be able to burst on the scene and do what he’s capable of doing,” he said. “He has power when he hits people they just bounce off. He has an explosiveness when he makes contact. It’s really a fun and special thing to watch.”

With Highland operating from a Wing-T alignment, the growth of Griffin into a cornerstone player has made the Bears tricky to slow down at times with capable halfbacks such as Gary Roberts and Chandler Mixon and quarterback Logan Jordan developing more as a passer.

It’s a system that’s fit Griffin extremely well, even when opposing defenses have tried clamping down on him.

“I wasn’t ready to play at the beginning of the year,” Griffin said. “I wasn’t at my full potential but taking it a game at a time, I can see that I’m starting to reach that point and capable of doing more things.”