Long before Jeremiah Goss ever donned a varsity football uniform — back when he was still steamrolling linebackers in youth games — Flowery Branch coach Chris Griffin saw a future high school star.
“We knew three or four years ago when he got here he was going to be pretty special,” Griffin said. “He’s beyond his years, physically.
“He was a kid that, when he was playing this youth league here, kids couldn’t tackle him. He’d have eight carries for eight touchdowns.”
Fast forward a few years and opposing varsity players don’t seem to be having much better success against the 5-foot-8, 200-pound sophomore.
Goss rumbled for 213 yards rushing on 13 carries in the Falcons’ scrimmage against Mountain View on Friday, including 174 yards in the first half alone.
Gaudy numbers in a scrimmage might not mean much if Goss had not already ran for 680 yards and eight touchdowns on only 101 carries as a freshman. Or, if he hadn’t proven himself capable of putting up those same kind of monster numbers in a regular season game, just as he did when he ran for 192 yards on 10 carries against Gainesville in the de facto Region 8-AAAAA championship last year.
But put all of that together, and it has the makings of worrisome trend for opposing defenses.
“Last year wasn’t really much of getting my feet wet, it was just, ‘get on the grass and you’ve got to go,’” Goss said.
“This year I’m just a little more comfortable with it and have a lot more confidence behind me.”
A confident running back with a year of starting experience under his belt will be important for a Flowery Branch squad that boasts eight new starters.
Goss’ particular running style should further benefit Falcons sophomore quarterback Jasen Johnson. As a power running back, Goss doesn’t often put his offense at a disadvantage on early downs.
“The thing you always want to see a running back do is get positive yards, kind of earn a little extra on his own at times, and he did that every time he touched it (Friday night),” Griffin said.
“I was pleased with some of the cuts that he made. We don’t want to have a run back go East and West too long. When he has to do it, he turns as quick as he can and goes back North.”
Goss is quick to label himself as “more of a power guy,” and his bio on Hudl.com lists his 40-yard dash time as a modest 4.69 seconds.
Griffin, however, said the running back plays faster than the speed test indicates.
“A good 40 time is always nice,” Griffin said. “It looks good on paper and it’s fun to brag about, but what’s more important to me is game speed, field speed.
“How fast can a kid run when he’s got a bunch of pads on and somebody is chasing after him? Goss has field speed — it looks like he’s the fastest guy out there.”
Beyond his physical skills, Goss has also shown a knack for the cerebral side of the position.
He’s been given the responsibility of setting the Falcons’ pass protections and, according to Griffin, makes very few mistakes in that area.
Goss also has little trouble critqiuing part of his own game. Among the improvements the sophomore would like to make in 2014, better burst through the line is near the top of the list.
That type of self awareness has led Griffin to take a somewhat hands-off approach when it comes to the running back’s game.
“If you have to coach them too much, they’re probably not a good running back,” Griffin said.
“Obviously he’s been gifted with the ability to do it, and he does it well. As long as he knows the play, we kind of let him be and use his instincts as much as possible.”
Goss is the only running back who Griffin can recall starting at Flowery Branch from Week 1 as a freshman.
The sophomore hopes to continue breaking new ground this year by leading the Falcons to their ninth consecutive playoff appearance and their first postseason win since 2011.
If Goss can turn in more performances like the one he had Friday night, that goal might not be far out of reach, even for a relatively inexperienced squad.
“I have a lot of confidence in our team this year,” Goss said. “I just want to be a threat in the region and throughout the playoffs.
“I want people to know who the Falcons are.”
Flowery Branch opens the regular season on Aug. 29 at Chestatee.