Central York's offense wasn't too hard to figure out last year. The Panthers had a feature-back, Charles Anderson (above), and on most nights seemed content to ride their workhorse senior as far as he could take them. Anderson's 260 carries were the most in the YAIAA -- 28 more than the next closest back -- as were his 1,863 rushing yards.
The previous fall, Central leaned on D.J. Harrison, who had converted from wide receiver as a senior. Harrison rushed for 1,607 yards and 26 touchdowns. In both cases, the backs were the energy sources for the Panthers' offense, the gears that kept Central grinding forward.
So who will be the Panthers next big-time back?
If you believe Central coach Brad Livingston, there might not be just one this year.
At YAIAA media day last week, Livingston said the Panthers may divvy carries among any of three candidates: juniors Saladin Dickson and Jalil Ford and sophomore Marquis Fells.
Here's the really interesting part: On any given down, all three could be on the field at the same time.
With the graduation of current Penn State freshman Kyle Baublitz, a talented blocker at tight end, Livingston said Central has been operating during practice in mostly three-receiver sets, with Ford, Fells and Justin Burke at the receiver spots. That's left Dickson and fullback Chris Englar in the backfield.
Except, depending on the play call or situation, Ford or Fells could shift to tailback.
"The three tailbacks are all talented enough that they can run routes," Livingston said. "Saladin Dickson lines up at tailback, but most of the time he's running routes.
"If we go into the eye, any of the three can dot the I."
Dickson could end up getting more carries than the other two, simply because Ford and Fells' skill sets translate so well to receiver. But all three could present a threat as ball carriers.
"What we're trying to do is get our playmakers on the field and try to get them the ball," Livingston.
All of which could make Central's offense very tricky to prepare for.
Ford and Fells offered clues to their playmaking potential last season. Ford, a sophomore, filled in for a hobbled Anderson in Central's season finale at William Penn last fall, piling up 226 total yards (82 rushing, 144 receiving) and three touchdowns.
Marquis Fells, the brother of former Central receiver Parrish Fells, contributed primarily on defense (he had a key pick-six in a district playoff win against Dallastown), but also ran for 64 yards on 14 carries last season.
It remains to be seen how the tailback spot will shake out for Central. Perhaps Dickson or somebody else develops into a carry-the-load back like Harrison or Anderson.
Or maybe the combo of Dickson, Ford and Fells could make the Panthers harder to game plan for than ever.