VIDEO: Red Lion's Jesse Shay talks about his defense, WR Randy Fizer, QB Zach Mentzer and captain Eli Workinger after Red Lion's win over Waynesboro. York Dispatch
When people see Elijah Workinger, they immediately know what type of football player he is.
He looks like the type of runner who wants nothing more than a fourth-and-one fullback dive, or the type of linebacker who hopes that teams will run a fullback dive right at him on fourth and one.
However, at 6 feet 5 inches and 250 pounds, the Red Lion High School senior is much more than just a bruising football player. To Red Lion head coach Jesse Shay, he’s “the complete package.”
“We’re only two games in, but at this point in his senior year, he’s the most complete player I’ve ever coached, and I’ve coached some good ones,” said Shay, who is in his fourth year coaching the Lions after a 12-year stint as an assistant at Bishop McDevitt.
What makes Workinger special, Shay said, is his ability to make an impact in every phase of the game.
In Red Lion’s dominating 48-14 win over Waynesboro last Friday, the senior captain did just that.
Bruising runner: Workinger, who plays fullback in Red Lion’s run-pass option offense, ran only four times for 30 yards vs. Waynesboro.
While Workinger’s main duty is as a blocker, Shay knows he can rely on his senior bulldozer to gain respectable yardage in any situation.
Shay said when the Lions (2-0) cross midfield, having Workinger, who was an honorable mention York-Adams Division I all-star running back last season, is crucial, because it makes going for it on fourth down more palatable.
“For example, if it’s third-and-nine, I don’t mind giving the ball to Eli,” Shay said. “He might give me nine yards, but he’ll definitely give me five or six yards.”
Run blocker: As a blocker, Workinger’s job is to seal the edge for quarterback Zach Mentzer and lead the way for running back Tyler Ness in the RPO offense.
Mentzer said Workinger’s size attracts the defense away from the Lions’ other skill players.
“He’s pretty big for our team,” Mentzer said. “Offensively, he attracts eyes. He’s a huge dude, and that helps when he’s coming down the middle. He opens up lanes for other guys.”
Reliable pass catcher: Workinger’s blocking ability makes sense. At his size, Workinger should be an effective blocker.
What’s unusual, though, is Workinger is one of Red Lion’s most reliable pass catchers, too. Workinger has caught a touchdown in each of Red Lion’s first two games.
Near the end of the second quarter on Friday, Mentzer floated a pass to Workinger out of the backfield on third down. Workinger caught the pass with one hand over his shoulder and ran for the 25-yard touchdown.
“When you see him, you think he’s just a tank and will run people over,” Shay said. “But he’s got really good feet and incredible hands.”
Workinger said he knows being someone Mentzer can trust as a receiver would help the first-year quarterback.
“In practice, I don’t just do running back stuff,” Workinger said. “I go out with the receivers sometimes to work on my hands, work on routes and get that down so I can be another target for Mentzer.”
Run stuffer: Even though Red Lion put up 48 points in the win last week, the defense was the main reason the Lions rolled.
The Lions’ defense, led by Workinger, a first-team D-I all-star at inside linebacker last season, held the Indians to negative 16 yards of offense in the first half.
Shay said defenses often shy away from Workinger on defense, but when they do run between the tackles, it’s a team effort between the defensive line and the linebackers.
“He’s so big,” Shay said. “He’s legitimately 6-5, 250, and he can move. The defensive linemen do a nice job of keeping blockers off him, but he does a great job stuffing the run.”
“Everyone has their own assignments, but you can’t just rely on yourself,” said Workinger, who led the Lions with 14 tackles last week. “You have to tackle as a team and rely on your teammates, too.”
Big leg: Despite his skills on offense and defense, Workinger may be a better kicker than he is anything else.
Last week, Workinger, a first-team D-I all-star at kicker last year, made all five extra points and two of his three field goal attempts, including 49-yarder that had enough juice to make it from at least 55 yards.
Workinger said his kicking skill derives from playing soccer as a child.
“I started kicking in football in seventh grade,” he said. “I had the power, because I’ve always been big, but the form has been there because of soccer.”
On kickoffs, Workinger routinely kicks touchbacks, forcing the opponent to start at the 20-yard line.
“It is demoralizing for an offense when they continually have to go 80 yards,” Shay said.
Shay said he doesn’t know how he’s going to replace Workinger after this season, but that he hopes the younger players take after him the rest of this season.
“I don’t want to think about being without him,” Shay said. “He’s a captain on this team. The guys look to him because they know he produces and he works hard.”
Reach Jacob Calvin Meyer at firstname.lastname@example.org