The numbers are eye-popping: A total of 416 yards rushing last week. And a two-game total of 719 yards, which leads all running backs in the state by a margin of 180 yards.
And this comes from someone who had only 704 yards last season, his first year of playing football.
Meet Anthony Poe, a senior at HOPE Christian, a school with an enrollment of 218 students located at 3215 N. King Drive.
“I feel blessed, actually,” Poe said. “It’s a great accomplishment (leading the state) . . . . This is all coming out of nowhere.”
Poe attended Milwaukee Riverside as a freshman and went to HOPE Christian as a sophomore. But he did not play sports because he says he had “some stuff at home to straighten out.”
Because of low turnouts last year, HOPE Christian coach Jermaine Evans approached Poe about football. Poe liked basketball better, but tried football anyway.
“Like a lot of the kids in the city, they have hoop dreams and want to play basketball,” Evans said. “He kind of reluctantly came out. Last year to start, he kind of did things his way. We struggled as a team, and even though he was the best player on the team, his leadership and at times character didn’t back up his playing.
“He’d show up for a practice or two, miss a couple and then show up again. He didn’t really commit until school started. Because at school, I saw him, so he couldn’t say he couldn’t be there. If guys want to be there, they’ll be there. I’m not going to beg them. I’ll offer them an opportunity. If they want to be a part of it, let me know. If not, we’ll just cut ties, no hard feelings and we’ll roll with the guys we’ve got. We had that conversation after a few practices.”
Poe was asked about the attitude.
“I just thought I was better than everyone else, really,” he said. “I don’t know.”
Poe, who shared time with another running back last year, said he never thought of quitting despite playing on a team that would finish 0-8.
But his coach wasn’t so sure.
“I did have my doubts he wouldn’t finish,” Evans said. “We were losing bad last year and were out of the game by the first or second quarter. At halftime we’d be down 30 or 40 points. I thought he’d quit and say, ‘I’m too good for this.’ ”
Evans says Poe started to listen more as the season went on. Toward the end of it, Poe even told Evans he wanted a football scholarship, among other goals.
And this past off-season, he worked out three times a week.
“The summer before, I didn’t really put in any work,” Poe said.
Poe’s first game resulted in 41 carries for 303 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-28 loss to Tri-County. He then ran 40 times for 416 yards and scored four TDs in a 56-36 loss to St. John’s Northwestern on Saturday.
The state record for most rushing yards in a game is 465, set by Milwaukee Marshall’s Donte Steward in 2005.
“He has great feet,” St. John’s Northwestern coach Gary Richert said. “He can cut in and out of a hole right in the hole. He has very quick acceleration.”
Evans says Poe is about 5-foot-8½ and probably weighs 165 pounds. The coach calls his running back deceptively elusive. He changes direction so effortlessly, he makes difficult runs look easy.
Not bad for someone who wasn’t in sports until last year.
“Once I came out and actually played a game, I was like, ‘I like football now,'” Poe said. “Basketball was my favorite until my first game. Then football just grew on me.”
HOPE Christian running back Anthony Poe has gained 719 yards in two games, which is by far the fastest start for a running back in the state. Here are how his numbers stack up against the state’s other top rushers so far.
|Anthony Poe, HOPE Christian||81||719||8.9||7|
|Austin Ramesh, Northland Pines||35||539||15.4||4|
|Hayden Krueger, Crandon||48||517||10.8||6|
|Ben Fischer, Crivitz||52||513||9.9||8|
|R.J. Shelton, Beaver Dam||39||417||10.7||6|
|Dominic Pfister, St. John’s Northwestern||35||413||11.8||7|
|Gabe Bubolz, Cambria-Frieslandl||43||408||9.5||4|
|Drew Patterson, Sussex Hamilton||50||405||8.1||6|
|Daniel Beck, Portage||56||403||7.2||2|
|Cody Moon, Laconia||21||403||19.2||7|