Riley Olson’s game plan is simple: Use his blazing speed and cut-back ability to attack the line of scrimmage.
As a junior last year, the Cambridge running back ran for 1,112 yards on 209 rushes — a 5.3 yards-per-carry average — and was named a first team all-Capitol South Conference performer.
And Olson achieved those things while getting more than a little excited along the way.
“I’m pretty energetic…I get excited whenever there’s a big play,” said the 5-foot, 6-inch, 160-pound senior speedster. “I’ll be screaming and trying to rile everyone else up.”
“He is feisty. ... He gets pretty intense about it,” said Cambridge’s 13th-year head coach, Mike Klingbeil. “Guys follow that, and he leads by example that way.
“He’s the guy that wants the ball when it’s fourth-and-one or when the game’s on the line, and young players respond to that.”
Olson more than compensates for his lack of size with a combination of unusual speed and quickness — and an eager willingness to seek out contact instead of avoiding it.
He won a state championship in the 300 meter intermediate hurdles (39.14 seconds). Olson and all-conference receiver Rudy Hommen were on the Blue Jays’ Division 3 state-meet record-setting 800 relay crew.
“He runs with his hair on fire,” Klingbeil said. “We tell him ‘if you’re going to run like that, back up a yard or two to give guys a little longer time for the play to develop.’ We tell the offensive linemen that he is going to run right over your back.”
“All the speed work I do during track transitions well into the football season, doing sprints and building power for jumping,” Olson said.
The Blue Jays face a tall task in replacing first team all-conference quarterback and Capitol South Offensive Player of the Year Spencer DeForest, who threw for 1,413 yards and completed 59.7 percent of his passes last year.
Utilizing Olson as a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield will help keep Cambridge’s fast-paced offense humming along.
Aside from the offensive line, Olson credits fullback Camden Eagan with clearing a path for him to run through.
“Camden has been blocking for me since seventh grade,” Olson said. “If I’m following him, I know he is going to light someone up. I’m not too worried about the first guy coming at me.”
Olson also has worked on his ball control. After struggling with fumbles as a sophomore, Olson didn’t cough up the football once last fall.
And that’s just one of the lessons Olson teaches to the younger Blue Jays who one day will take over for him.
“It’s a responsibility of mine to teach young players everything new. We have so much knowledge behind our senior class,” Olson said. “Anything we can teach (the young players) is going to help them in the long run.”