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Rushing duo of Emig and Gurreri leading Red Lion

Patrick Strohecker
505-5402/@P_Strohecker
  • Red Lion's Sam Emig and Dylan Gurreri have accumulated the fourth-most rushing yards for a duo in the league with 609.
  • Gurreri is ranked 10th in the league in rushing, while Emig is 11th, despite being the quarterback.
  • Emig also serves as the team's kicker and has scored the most points in the league with 56.

Red Lion head coach Jesse Shay doesn't hold back when he expresses what he thinks his team can accomplish this year.

Red Lion running back Dylan Gurreri rushed for 155 yards in Friday night's Y-A League Division I win over Northeastern. John A. Pavoncello photo

If there was ever a season in his four years with the Lions that could yield the grandest results, this is the one. He realizes that.

He's never had a team filled with this much talent and experience. And he might not have a team like it again anytime soon.

Through three games in 2016, Red Lion is undefeated, scoring 111 points on offense and allowing just 31. The Lions rank fourth in scoring offense (37.0 ppg), fifth in scoring defense (10.3 ppg), third in team offense (359.7 yards per game) and seventh in team defense (189.3 ypg). With numbers like that, it's no wonder Red Lion enters York-Adams League Division I play still unbeaten.

But, where the Lions are perhaps the most dangerous is on the ground, despite ranking eighth in the league in rushing, averaging 251.7 yards per game. It's not so much the team's rushing ability that is wreaking havoc on opposing defenses, but a select couple of individual players hashing out the damage.

Senior quarterback Sam Emig and senior running back Dylan Gurreri make up, arguably, the most lethal rushing duo in the Y-A League.

"We've played together for, like, five years," Emig said about his chemistry with Gurreri. "We just know each other and just click."

Statistics: From a pure numbers standpoint, Emig and Gurreri might not look like the league's best rushing tandem. Their 609 combined yards through three weeks is actually fourth best, behind Northeastern's Anu Johnson and Shannon Valenti (656 yards), Biglerville's Reggie Adams and Ivan Manzo (653) and Fairfield's Charlie Burnett and Darian Mort (648).

However, what makes Emig and Gurreri stand out from the rest is the fact that they're probably the most complementary of the pairings. Johnson, Burnett and Adams are the top-three rushers in the Y-A League, while their partners, Manzo, Valenti and Mort rank 25th, 26th and 27th, respectively.

But, with Emig and Gurreri, they're the only duo that ranks in the league's top 11, with Gurreri sitting in 10th with 314 rushing yards, while Emig is 11th at 295. So, while they might not have as many yards as the other three pairings ahead of them, they're easily the most consistent tandem and require the most attention from opposing defenses.

"Sam referenced plays where (defenses) are just keying on Gurreri and he can pull it and go," Shay said. "That has an effect on our offense and, the big part, it has an effect on the defense we're playing. They have to slow down now and can't just fly on their reads, and when they don't play as fast as they can, that helps our offense."

Expected success: Coming into the season, Shay knew what the team was expecting to get out of Gurreri at the running back position. He saw some varsity action at the position going back to his sophomore season and, last year, before getting slowed down by some injuries, actually got off to a fast start running the ball. By the end of the season, he finished second on the team in rushing and still totaled more than 500 yards on the ground.

"I've taken stuff that I've learned from (Alex Keough) and the previous running backs and trying to combine the two," Gurreri said about evolving into the feature back. "(Alex's) techniques and Kenny Holloway's from two years ago, his strength and how he would run through people, I just try to put both of them into my running style."

While he's technically Red Lion's quarterback, senior Sam Emig has shown his ability to use his feet this year, totaling 295 rushing yards through three weeks. John A. Pavoncello photo

Unknown commodity: As for Emig, Shay admitted that he knew about Emig's athleticism, but still wasn't sure how it would translate at the varsity level. But, what he's gotten has been more than he ever could've asked to begin the season.

As a dual-threat quarterback, Emig has allowed Shay and offensive coordinator Taylor Green to really expand their playbook and give Emig the freedom to not only call his own number on occasion, but also improvise and make decisions on the fly.

"We have quite a bit in our playbook where it's a run-pass option," Shay said. "And even if it's a run option, he's got two options off of that. So, we have to trust Sam's decision-making a great deal. ... So, when you see Sam run for a 25-yard gain, we may have called something that, if he read the safety differently, he could've thrown the ball on that play."

Emig has without a doubt become one of the most dynamic players in the league in his first year as a starting varsity quarterback. Not only is he averaging nearly 100 yards rushing per game, but he's also 10th in the league in passing with 286 yards and is the team's kicker as well, converting 14 extra points and two field goals. He's accounted for a league-best 56 total points on the season, 12 more than the next-closest player.

Now that the Lions prepare to begin Division I play, they'll be facing familiar foes every week from here on out, making the task of continuing what Emig and Gurreri have going so far all the more challenging.

But, if Red Lion is to live up to the expectations that Shay knows his team is capable of achieving this year, it'll come on the legs of its two dynamic rushers.

— Reach Patrick Strohecker at pstrohecker@yorkdispatch.com