Sturgis a reliable fill-in as Franklin defeats Imhotep

Posted: September 01, 2007

THIS IS Labor Day Weekend, not the end of October, so that was not Versean Dawkins in a costume.

Yes, judging by his 2006 heroics, Dawkins again figured to be one of the top rushers in Public League football this season. But early this week, in nothing more taxing than a no-contact drill, he went one way and his left knee refused to go along, and surgery for a torn meniscus is scheduled for Tuesday.

Rough blow for Ben Franklin High, expected to contend in the AAA Division.

Great opportunity for another senior, 5-10, 185-pound Chris Sturgis.

Yesterday at 29th and Chalmers, as the final minutes of the season opener melted away, Dawkins vacated his seat in the stands and hobbled down to the sideline on crutches to join his happy teammates.

When asked about Sturgis, Dawkins smiled and said, "I taught him well." He then added, "I knew he was going to do what he did."

Though he fared best at rushing, Sturgis was a multi-faceted star as Franklin rolled past Imhotep Charter, 28-10. Didn't wait long to make an impact, either.

Sturgis ripped off a 73-yard gain on the Electrons' second play, frolicking downfield all the way to the 9. He bulled 2 yards for a touchdown two plays later, and No. 27 was well on his way to a darn good impersonation of No. 22.

Sturgis finished with 15 carries for 156 yards and two touchdowns. He also turned a screen pass from Tajidin McGough into a 26-yard gain, mixed an interception with two tackles for losses while playing outside linebacker, and even recovered an onside kick with 90 seconds remaining.

Oh, and we've saved the best for last.

Two minutes into the third quarter, Sturgis evaded, or bounced off, several tacklers while angling to the right sideline and backing up, and then saw daylight and hugged the chalk while dashing to the end zone for a 35-yarder. No matter what happens from here to December, this run will rank as one of the season's best.

As Sturgis scored, assistant Al Hill roared right away, "Was that a run, or what?!"

Coach Ken Geiser then approached a kneeling, panting Sturgis on the sideline and said, "Everybody knows No. 22. Now they know No. 27."

Sturgis said he was not concerned earlier this week, because Dawkins' injury at first was thought to be minor.

"When I found out it wasn't, I was OK with it," he said. "Nah, not nervous. I had some decent games last year."

Yes, but against weak opposition.

"I did what I had to do, and I thank my linemen for stepping up with me."

Sturgis said he'd carried maybe seven times in a recent scrimmage vs. Northeast.

"How many yards? A few," he said. "Not enough to brag about."

This is no more than Sturgis' second year playing football. Well, except for the street variety. His schoolmates persuaded him to join Franklin's squad last season.

Geiser said that Sturgis was somewhat timid - understandable, considering his vast inexperience, right? - and that he hesitated offering him a larger role against quality foes. No more, folks. Credit the weight room.

Since last season, Sturgis has improved his squat from 145 to 395 and his bench-press from 145 to 285.

"That helped me on [the 35-yarder]," Sturgis said. "I stayed strong. Kept moving my legs and stayed low, like the coaches taught me. Now I'm a much more physical person.

"And the [73-yard gain] gave me early confidence. It was kind of strange, doing that right away. Lifted my spirits."

Franklin's grunts included center Marvin Watson, guards Aaron Edwards and Icsam Smith, tackles Lydell Boanes and Dante Jackson and tight end Jamel "Redz" Haggins. Christopher Wood (3-yarder) and Tyron Carlton (93-yarder; also two interceptions) ran for the other TDs.

Sturgis' only negative moment occurred when Daniel Jones and James Clark combined to drop him for a 1-yard loss and a fourth-quarter safety. Gerald Bowman (15-64) ran 4 yards for a late TD for 'Hotep.

Sturgis, who lives near 10th and Brown, plans to major in business and/or communications in college. Future hope: to own a sporting goods store.

We can picture him now . . . Hanging mostly in the section where the weights will be on display . . . Telling everyone, "You should have seen how these things helped me." *

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