RB Dengler a real danger with the ball

West Deptford is wary of the prolific Haddonfield senior's big numbers.

Posted: September 29, 2011

If West Deptford holds Haddonfield running back Chris Dengler to half his per-carry average in Friday's Colonial Conference showdown, the Eagles will still be in big trouble.

In a sport in which 5 yards per carry is good and 10 is off the charts, Dengler is picking up 22 yards per carry. He has rushed for 309 yards on just 14 carries as Haddonfield has broken to a 2-0 start.

"Just following my blocks," Dengler said.

Haddonfield coach Frank DeLano said Dengler's fast start is the result of more than good blocking. The 5-foot-10, 170-pound Dengler has an extra gear as a senior, thanks to an offseason of speed training.

"Chris always had good vision as a running back," DeLano said. "Even as a young kid, you could see he had a great concept of the offense and a feel for how to run the ball. But he didn't necessarily have breakaway speed.

"Now you can see how hard he's worked on his speed. Now he's a fast back with that same vision. It's made a big difference for him."

Dengler's rushing numbers are impressive. But he has actually averaged more yardage as a kick returner.

He has returned four punts for 70 yards and two kickoffs for 117 yards. That's 31.1 yards per touch on special teams.

Haddonfield, the No. 10 team in The Inquirer Top 10, might need some big plays from Dengler in Friday night's clash with West Deptford (2-0).

The teams are fierce and familiar rivals. They've played six times in the last three years. In each of the last two years, West Deptford has won in the regular season, and Haddonfield has won in the South Jersey Group 2 playoffs.

"For a long time, they were where we wanted to be," Dengler said of West Deptford. "They were this team that competed at a high level, that always seemed to go deep in the playoffs. Now, we kind of see eye-to-eye with them."

Dengler ran for 896 yards and seven touchdowns last season as Haddonfield went 11-1, setting a school record for victories and capturing the program's first sectional title since the state-playoff system began in 1974.

He said he was determined to be even better as a senior.

"I did a lot of speed training in the offseason because I thought that was an aspect of my game that I could improve on," said Dengler, who has scored six touchdowns in the team's first two games. "I feel like I'm reaping the benefits of that."

A top student, Dengler has a 98 average and has scored 2020 on his SAT. He is considering schools such as Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., as well as Middlebury (Vt.) College, and the University of Chicago.

Dengler is part of a veteran group of Haddonfield seniors who were key players last season but are hoping to take the program to another level this season. For the Bulldogs, that would include a rare, regular-season victory over West Deptford.

"We've been talking about our senior year for the last couple of years," Dengler said. "Last year was great, but this is our last season together. This is the season we've been waiting for."

Contact staff writer Phil Anastasia at 856-779-3223, panastasia@phillynews.com, or @PhilAnastasia on Twitter. Read his blog, "Jersey Side Sports," at www.philly.com/jerseysidesports

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