First Posted: 1/15/2009
ROWLAND -- They scream, it seems, for no reason other than to send your blood pressure skyrocketing into the stratosphere.
They chew on everything in sight, embarrass you in public and keep you awake through the morning's wee hours.
It's a stage called the “Terrible Twos” -- that age when children unwittingly take on a distinct satanic quality.
Just ask Barry Leonard.
“Oh, yeah, he's quite the handful,” the South Robeson football coach said of Daniel Leonard, his 2-year-old son.
Daniel showed off a healthy set of lungs Friday night, wailing loudly when brought to his father moments after the final whistle in the Mustangs' playoff game at frosty Twitty Stadium.
“He doesn't like the cold,” Leonard said, “and he doesn't understand football yet. … Sounds like he wants to go home.”
“Terrible Twos” has a similar meaning for South Robeson's opponents, in the form of Mustangs senior running backs Robert Tillman and Matt Oxendine.
Though Tillman and Oxendine don't spend their time actually chewing on everything within their grasp, they figuratively take bites of yardage at an alarming rate and send opposing coaches groping for Grecian Formula.
After storming through the regular season, against opponents largely aware of their talents, the 6-foot, 175-pound Tillman and the 6-1, 205-pound Oxendine have spent the past three weeks presenting a Kilimanjaro-sized problem for playoff teams.
“How do you stop both of them? It's pick your poison,” Brevard coach Dan Essenberg said Friday after Tillman and Oxendine savaged his team for 268 yards and three touchdowns in South Robeson's 34-13 win. “If you focus your energies on one, the other burns you. Turns out we couldn't stop either one.”
En route to the Mustangs building their 12-1 record, no opponent has stopped both halves of their double-barreled weapon. When defenses have crammed the middle to curtail the power-packed Oxendine and his rhinoceros-in-an-antique-store abandon, the cheetah-fast Tillman has scorched them on the outside. And vice versa.
“The setup has worked well because Matt and I like each other,” said Tillman, who has rushed for 344 yards at an average of 10.8 per carry in the playoffs. “We like blocking for each other.”
The closest an opponent has come to stopping them both came on Oct. 25 in, not coincidentally, the lone game South Robeson has lost. Clinton held Oxendine to 36 yards and Tillman to 93 in the unbeaten Dark Horses' 21-14 win.
For the season Oxendine has rushed for 1,267 yards at an average of 6.3 per carry. Tillman is at 1,217 and 8.9. Oxendine has scored 18 touchdowns and Tillman 15. No opponent has kept both from scoring.
The next team challenged with slowing Tillman and Oxendine is Burlington Cummings (7-7), which will play South Robeson in a 2-A state semifinal Friday at Twitty Stadium.
“We've faced plenty of good backs this year, and we've got a good one of our own,” Essenberg said, referring to Brevard halfback Wendell Moss, who rushed for 1,614 yards this season, “but we never saw two that good on the same team.”
Steve Beaudry can be reached at 739-4322, Ext. 118 or by e-mail at [email protected]