Brandon Sinclair’s ego wasn’t going to get in the way of common sense.
One week after Myrtle Beach quarterback Drayton Arnold went down with what is at least considered a significant thumb injury – and nine days after one of his idols was forced to retire from the sport – Sinclair enters Friday’s second-round playoff game against Hanahan with a new understanding.
Although the junior running back’s touches and yards have dipped from his carry-happy 2013 season, he also recognizes something about himself.
A lack of pain.
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“Last year, I had a lot of carries,” he said this week. “Around this time, I started getting worn down and beat up. … I could definitely tell after games and going into practice the next week. I would be really tired, doing the same thing over and over. I could never really catch a break.”
By his own account, Sinclair was a shell of himself heading into the playoffs last year. The 2013 regular season had taken its toll, as he racked up 235 carries and 1,500 yards in the first nine games of the year.
Come playoff time, Sinclair was a different player.
He did rush for 109 yards in the 2013 postseason opener against Berkeley. Not surprisingly, that was after he sat out the regular-season finale. But even then, his ability to fight off tacklers and some of his break-away speed had diminished.
Flash forward to 2014, and it’s a different story.
Sinclair stood out in the first-round win over Gilbert last week. He rushed for 83 yards (slightly below his season average), but his burst was every bit on display in the receiving game. He took a first-quarter swing pass from Arnold, turned upfield and raced 81 yards to the end zone.
He finished with 197 total yards and three touchdowns.
It’s made sure opposing defenses are still concentrating on him, despite the fact that the Seahawks’ passing game has been the priority.
“Brandon draws a lot of attention defensively,” coach Mickey Wilson said. “Whenever we play somebody, they’re going to key in on Brandon and make sure they keep an eye on him at all times. That helps us with our passing game.”
The team has thrown for more than 3,000 yards this season, and the pass-first approach probably won’t be abandoned even if Arnold doesn’t play against Hanahan or the rest of the postseason.
Receiver Kyle Belack and tight end Malik Waring lead a list of five players who have caught at least 20 passes this season. That group includes Sinclair.
So be it Arnold or backup Jake Deskins, there are plenty of viable targets.
“Initially, he was kind of our go-to guy,” Wilson said of Sinclair. “Now, I think we have several go-to guys. There are going to be nights when Kyle has a big night, or Malik might have a big night, or Brandon may have a big night. We’re going to take what the defense gives us.”
What all that passing has done is also allow Sinclair to keep something in the tank.
Even including his carries last week, he has rushed the ball 142 fewer times than he did in all of 2013. He’s been cognizant of that, and he was reminded of the wear and tear running backs endure when former South Carolina Gamecock great Marcus Lattimore retired last week due to major knee issues.
The decreased workload hasn’t stripped Sinclair of a successful season.
He’s rushed for 1,083 yards and 17 touchdowns, figures that will lead the team’s running backs for a third consecutive season. More importantly, unlike last year, he’s still physically prepared to make the most of his opportunities.
“Now,” he said, “I’m fresh. I’m good.”