When Julius Loughridge’s father moved earlier this year to coach at Mayde Creek, the son was given a choice to stay at Taylor or go with dad.
For Loughridge, a junior running back, the decision was easy. Home was a block away from Mayde Creek, and Loughridge was intrigued about helping establish a winning culture for the football program.
So far, he’s done exactly that. After rushing for 169 yards and two touchdowns in the season-opening win at Conroe last week, Loughridge lifted his team to a 24-21 win over Fort Bend Austin on Saturday evening at Legacy Stadium, going for 188 yards and two touchdowns as the Rams are 2-0 for the second time in three years.
“He’s a great running back,” Mayde Creek coach Mike Rabe said. “He understands the entire offense. He knows when to take the chances to bust out a big play or when to grind out some yards that we need. He makes a huge difference for us.”
Rabe said he’s never had a running back like Loughridge in his five years at the helm of the Rams. Generally, Mayde Creek backs have been small, speedy guys who operate best on the perimeter in open space.
The 5-foot-11, 200 pound Loughridge is speedy—he runs a 4.4 40-yard dash—but powerful, benching 350 pounds and squatting 600. He gives the Rams a back who can run inside the tackles, which opens things up on the outside as the game goes on.
“He’s a hard runner,” senior offensive lineman Curtis Stripling said. “You make a little hole, he’ll power though. He’s always getting positive yards. That’s what I like about him.”
Loughridge is averaging 7.8 yards per carry so far. It’s a far cry from last year, when Loughridge shared carries as part of a three-man backfield at Taylor.
Loughridge averaged 9.6 carries and 46.1 yards per game for the Mustangs last year. This season, he’s averaging 23 carries and 178.5 yards per game, and his four touchdowns match last season’s total.
“It’s different,” Loughridge said. “I’m used to getting eight carries a game. Now I’m getting 20, 25 carries. In the fourth quarters, I’m stretching, staying hydrated. I know I have to be ready for my team. They count on me. I enjoy that.”
With senior quarterback Jacoby Wilson, who ran for 89 yards and a touchdown in the win against Austin, Loughridge has a signal-caller who is mobile and athletic. That’s key, he said. Wilson’s running ability spreads the defense so that Loughridge has room on the inside.
“Being able to have the defense spread out and running through the middle and breaking tackles is easy for me,” Loughridge said.
It was evident against Austin. Loughridge broke a plethora of tackles and proved hard to bring down, always keeping his feet moving with the ball high and his body low.
Some of his big gains came for 26, 23, 21 and 16 yards, respectively.
“With Julius, it feels like our offense is whole,” Wilson said. “If we get a bad play, the next play we hand off to Julius because we know he’ll make up the yards, get that first down. He’s tough.”
Loughridge’s character is appreciated as well. If a lineman misses a block, he doesn’t complain. He offers positive reinforcement. If he makes a big run, he doesn’t celebrate. It’s on to the next play.
“That has an effect on us,” Wilson said.
Which is exactly what Loughridge was hoping for when he came to Mayde Creek.
“It turned out to be a better situation for me, as far as helping this team,” Loughridge said. “I’m happy to be a part of it. Being able to be one of the leaders on this team, getting wins, it’s fun. Whatever I can do to help. At the end of the day, winning and playoffs is all that matters.”