By T. Scott Boatright
Deception can be a big part of football.
It can come in the form of deceptive scores, deceptive plays and deceptive speed.
That later is significantly true of senior Cedar Creek running back Jed Worthey, who stands 5’8” at most and only weighs around 135 pounds.
But he’s played like a big, and deceptive, offensive weapon for the Cougars so far this season.
“He plays extremely hard and is very aggressive,” said first-year Cedar Creek head coach Matt Middleton. “It’s kind of one of those deals where you look at him and you don’t realize, but he’s a player. He plays much bigger than he is. He runs extremely hard and gets after it. He runs wide open, and the more he plays the better he gets.”
Fittingly, Worthey’s season got off to a somewhat deceptive start. After Cedar Creek’s first game scheduled to be played against Liberty Magnet was cancelled due to Hurricane Ida’s strike on south Louisiana, Worthey rolled his ankle in the Cougars’ second game against St. Frederick.
Then he played sparingly in Cedar Creek’s second game on a rainy field at Delhi.
But then the Cougars faced arch-rival OCS last week, a game which Cedar Creek led 22-21 in the final minutes before a couple of late touchdowns allowed the Eagles to escape with a 33-21 win.
“I first hurt it in the game against St. Fred’s,” Worthey said of his ankle. “I tried to go against Delhi but it was raining and I could feel the ankle wasn’t working too good. I got hit and tweaked it and ended up sitting out the rest of that game.
“Then I really wasn’t too sure going in against OCS how long it would hold up. But it was a good game and I guess the adrenaline kind of kicked in and held it together. At the beginning of the week I knew it was going to be OCS and I was going to play no matter what, no matter how hurt it was. The fact it was OCS really drove me to stick through it.”
Stick it out he did, to the tune of 160 rushing yards and two scores on 25 carries
That kind of intestinal fortitude hasn’t been lost on the Cedar Creek coaching staff and especially Middleton.
“He’s been beat up all season long but still finds a way to play,” Middleton said. “There was a little panic that first week or two. It’s been something really. He’s taken a lot of punishment. I was worried, and I hate to say this in a way, but when I saw him in the spring make all of the cuts he made, I knew he was ‘The Dude.’ I knew he had something special. He’s got great vision. He can cut on a dime and be at full speed two or three steps later.
“Lane Thomas has really come on lately to give us a better chance to rest Jed a little bit. We weren’t able to rest him at all at first.”
As some who played primarily at receiver the past two seasons, Worthey feels he fits in much better with the new Cedar Creek offense installed by Middleton.
“It’s completely different,” Worthey said of the new Cougars’ offense. “This offense has a lot more player option, not just ‘you’re going to run this and that’s the only way.’ It’s more like the player on the field makes the decision about where the ball is going to go. That goes for the quarterback and for me as running back. (Caden Middleton) gives me the ball, and I get to pick where I run based on how it sets up on the field. It just works out. We kind of click. It just came naturally and keeps getting better every day.”
Matt Middleton said Worthey is the perfect fit for the new scheme.
“He’s what I call a true 1-back,” Middleton said. “My background is a 1-back offense. He’s a guy that sees a cut and makes the cut. He does a lot more reading than people might realize. It’s not old school where you run to this hole through that gap. He’s got really good vision and is only going to get better as the year goes on.”
Middleton also appreciates the quiet leader Worthey is for the Cougars.
“He’s a good leader,” Middleton said. “He doesn’t yell a whole lot — he leads by example. But when he does say something his teammates listen. But the biggest thing is that he leads by the way he plays.”
Worthey said part of his improvement this year is because of the position change.
“I like running back a lot more,” Worthey said. “I really wouldn’t say that I’ve had the best hands. I much rather have someone just hand me the ball and let me do what I do and run with it.”
Worthey used to run track but said that switching to powerlifting, where he won an individual state championship last year in the 132-pound class, has also helped.
“That definitely has made me way more explosive,” Worthey said. “I’m a lot stronger in my lower body, so I can explode. And I can take more and bigger hits than before and keep fighting through them.”
Worthey, a strong student and member of the National Honor Society, said he’s been playing football since elementary. And he knows that with the chance of getting a football scholarship at his size not being guaranteed, he’s just concentrating on one day and one play at a time.
“I know it’s unlikely I’ll play college ball, so I just work hard and make sure to focus on my education,” Worthey said. “I know there’s a good chance this is my last year of playing, so I have to make it the best one. “
Photo: Darrell James (dgjames.photoshelter.com)
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