SKOWHEGAN — Some running backs are tough to tackle because they’re big. They run over opponents, leaving would-be tacklers littered in their wake.

That’s not Kaleb Brown. Just 5-foot-9, the Skowhegan Area High School junior running back is tough to tackle simply because, well, he’s tough to tackle. For defenses trying to stop Brown, the first hit is usually just a starting point.

“Kaleb’s biggest strength is his balance. He’s a strong kid. He’s a wrestler, a very good wrestler, and I think that’s where the balance comes from,” Skowhegan head coach Matt Friedman said. “He’s not the fastest, but he’s got good vision and he’s got great balance. He’s hard to take down.”

Running out of Skowhegan’s spread offense, Brown makes the Indians’ offense two-dimensional. With quarterback Adam Clukey and a strong group of receivers like DJ Allen, Ben Salley and Owen Mercier, Pine Tree Conference Class B opponents knew Skowhegan could throw. The addition of Brown to the backfield this year ensures defenses can’t load up to prevent the pass.

“This year, we balance run and pass a lot, and it compliments each other,” Brown said.

Brown finished the regular season with 895 yards rushing with 11 touchdowns. A key piece of Skowhegan’s passing game, Brown also had 15 receptions for 180 yards and two touchdowns.

The Class A wrestling runner-up last winter in the 138-pound weight class, Brown and the Indians (4-4) will play at rival Mt. Blue (5-3) on Friday in a regional quarterfinal game. The winner will play at top-seed Brunswick in the semis.

Last season, most of Brown’s playing time came as a slot receiver. With the graduation of Tyler Savage, the Indians had a hole at running back. It didn’t take Brown long to cement his role with the Indians.

“He’s also one of those guys, if I asked him to play guard, he’d would do it in a heartbeat,” Friedman said.

Brown ran for 96 yards and a touchdown on just 11 carries in Skowhegan’s season-opening 56-6 win over Mt. Ararat. The following week, playing in heavy rain, he ran for 196 yards and a score in a 14-6 win over Messalonskee.

In last week’s regular-season finale against Mt. Blue, Brown gained 178 yards on 30 carries and scored two touchdowns. Brown rushed for 111 of those yards in the second half, including six carries of 10 yards or more.

“The thing about Kaleb is, he gets better as the game goes on,” Friedman said. “We have to watch ourselves, that we don’t say ‘Oh, we can’t run that play because it didn’t do anything the first or second time we run it.’ “

Brown’s favorite plays are Skowhegan’s power run plays, in which he follows a lead block by a pulling guard.

“The hole opens up and I usually have a good lane,” Brown said.

Stretch plays, in which Brown goes around the end, also have worked for big gains.

“There’s been games we’ve run power 20 times out of different formations. He’s probably gotten the majority of his yards on the power play and the stretch play. Those are our two main run plays,” Friedman said. “The reason the power play and the stretch play are so good for Kaleb is that he’s a very patient runner. He lets his blocks get set up, then he can make the one cut and get in the hole.”

At the start of the season, Skowhegan’s goal was the playoffs. With that realized, the goal has changed, Brown said.

“Our goal was to make it to the playoffs, and we’re there,” Brown said. “Now we want to make it to the next step and hopefully play for the Gold Ball.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242[email protected]Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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