FORT WAYNE – The straight-ahead approach has always worked for the Churubusco football team, and Jason Nicodemus’ style plays perfectly to that approach.
The senior has been the workhorse fullback in the traditional, simple and effective offense for No. 6 Churubusco (10-1), which plays at No. 5 Bishop Luers in a Class 2A sectional title game tonight.
Most teams when they go to play there’s no question what we want to do, and that’s run the football, Nicodemus said. We just try to keep them guessing where it’s going to go.
It starts up front, and they have to stay low because we don’t have a lot of size when you get into the playoffs and playing a team like Bishop Luers. It is just being persistent with your blocks and being persistent with your runs. When I am running, I just try to find a seam, and if somebody gets in my way then I will just keep driving.
The style has produced two of the area’s best running backs in the last four years – Nicodemus and Kyle Mathewson (who is at Saint Francis).
We know in our offense, that position is going to be pretty important for us, Churubusco coach Lee Etzler said. That’s our best athlete we put there.
This year, Nicodemus has 2,109 rushing yards and 33 total touchdowns, including a school-record 30 rushing touchdowns.
He ran for 1,751 and 19 scores last year as a junior. The 5-foot-8, 205-pounder replaced Mathewson, who had 2,584 yards and 38 total touchdowns in 2010 and 1,847 yards and 17 scores in 2009.
Mathewson’s 2,584 yards are a school record, while Nicodemus’ 2,109 is No. 2, so Nicodemus said he hears the comparisons to Mathewson.
People that watch a lot of our games realize we are a little bit different, Nicodemus said. As far as our build, we don’t look a lot alike, and he was quite a bit faster than me. One thing a lot of people point out is in how similar we are in how hard we run. We don’t try to avoid too many people, and we go right at them. We fight for every single yard. That’s something we take pride in and have people notice we don’t go down easy.
Despite playing the three-time defending 2A state champion Knights, who have a Notre Dame recruit in linebacker Jaylon Smith, the Eagles don’t plan on changing much in a rematch of last year’s sectional finals that was won by Luers 34-7.
I don’t think it would be too smart to do anything different in a game like this, Etzler said.
If we try to do a lot different, we aren’t going to be too good at it and against a team like that, you aren’t going to have too much success. Whether we have success offensively or not, we aren’t going to surprise people with what we are doing.
As a sophomore, Nicodemus worked into the rotation at linebacker.
About halfway through a season that resulted in a Class A semistate berth. Even then, Etzler already saw the makings of a solid football player.
He wasn’t as physically talented as he is now, Etzler said. He was probably one of the tougher players on the team even back then.
We were very concerned after losing Mathewson and who was going to replace him at the fullback position last year. I really had no idea when practice started. He started out there.
Etzler said Nicodemus had around 120 rushing yards in his debut as a running backlast year as a junior.
He proved to be pretty difficult to tackle for teams even then, Etzler said.