WINTHROP — A comeback victory in the biggest game of the season for the Winthrop/Monmouth football team didn’t do much to rile up Alec Brown. While players celebrated around him, the Ramblers fullback maintained his composure during postgame questions. Yes, the win was big, but the focus is on the next game. Sure, an undefeated record is nice, but there’s plenty of season to go.

One topic cracked the exterior. Brown was read the rushing totals for the 29-22 victory over Oak Hill. He had 124 yards. But halfback Nate Scott had 173.

Not what he wanted to hear. Feigning disappointment, Brown could only smile.

“Ah, man,” he said. “He beat me.”

It’s nothing new. They’re the top two runners on the top team in Class D’s Campbell Conference — and one never misses an opportunity to update the other on the battle for bragging rights.

“We’re close friends and we’re always competing with each other in a fun way,” Scott said. “We walked into the locker room (Monday) and were comparing the stats and giving each other crap, saying ‘I do this, I do that.’ It’s a friendly, competitive thing we have back and forth with each other, and it works pretty well.”

Very well. The powerful platoon of Scott and Brown has been the engine to the Winthrop/Monmouth machine that has rolled to the top of the conference. Brown has rushed for 505 yards on 72 carries, a 7.0 yard-per-carry average. Scott’s gained 484 yards on 62 carries, a 7.8 average.

“It’s a two-headed monster for some teams,” coach Dave St. Hilaire said. “If you load up the box we’re going to run it outside, and if you take away the outside we’re going to run right up through the middle. It is nice to have that.”

Not to mention necessary. With both players sharing the carries, Winthrop/Monmouth (5-0) goes deep into the second half of its games with its top weapons at full strength.

“You always say you want to carry the ball 20 times but when it actually happens you’re exhausted,” Brown said. “When there’s somebody there to help carry the load, it just makes your job easier and a lot better.”

The two are equally productive in opposite ways. Scott is quick, elusive and fast, who can beat the defense to the edge on pitches and sweeps, then turn upfield and dart through defenders. Brown is a bruiser, nicknamed “The Bus” by the Winthrop/Monmouth fans who go wild when he pounds and drags defenders between the tackles. Scott is a weapon in the passing game, with 14 catches for 226 yards and three scores. Brown is the goal-line back, with eight rushing touchdowns to Scott’s zero.

The skill sets mesh perfectly. And the players know it.

“We’re focused on winning the game,” Scott said. “We’re both confident that one another can get the job done. … Whoever’s number is called, we’re ready to go out and leave a block for each other.”

The differences trickle down to how they’ve arrived at their roles. Brown is in his third year as a power back in the Ramblers’ offense, and ran for 836 yards a year ago and was called the team’s “bread and butter” by St. Hilaire. Scott started as a defensive player, but finally channeled his speed and agility into becoming a rushing threat midway through last year.

“That was when we knew … that this guy is something else as a running back,” St. Hilaire said. “Not just a speed guy, he can explode between tackles.”

Different as they are, the two can do good impressions of each other. On Friday against Oak Hill, it was Brown who provided a spark by zipping through the defense for a 68-yard run from his own 3-yard line, and it was Scott who extended drive after drive by spinning off tacklers and diving forward for extra yards.

“We’re very different runners, but sometimes we’ll show little flashes of each other,” Scott said. “He had a couple of moves last game. He’s not as one-dimensional as you might think.”

Of course, when one impersonates the other, he lets him know about it.

“When I had that big run against Oak Hill, I was like ‘Ooh, I’m like Nate out there.’ And then when he lowers his shoulder he comes up to me and says ‘Did you see that? That’s how it’s done,’ ” Brown said. “We always want to one-up each other. It brings out the best in us.”

The hard part for St. Hilaire can be picking which back to go with.

“Sometimes it’s the defense that presents itself, if we see the linebacker starting to cheat in or the defensive ends are really cheating to the outside trying to contain,” he said. “And the other part is if one guy’s feeling it, just keep giving him the rock.”

Sometimes the decision is made for him. Against Oak Hill, Scott took a 2nd-and-1 carry from the Raiders’ 7-yard line, went left and was drilled shortly after picking up the first down. Scott got up in obvious pain, helped along by teammates, and made his way to the sideline.

Enter Brown. Next play, touchdown for ‘The Bus,’ his third of the game.

“I didn’t have a doubt that he would (score),” Scott said. “He’ll run you over if he has to. He just brings great energy to the team.”

It goes both ways — the sight of the undersized Scott throwing himself at defenders with first place in the conference on the line wasn’t lost on Brown or his teammates.

“He was taking a beating, he was getting hit hard,” Brown said. “We were in the huddle saying ‘Look at Nate, he can barely even walk right now but he’s still going. We need to do that.’ He brings out intensity in all of us.”

Now comes the homestretch of the regular season and playoffs, where colder weather will make running the ball even more important — and depth at that position all the more critical. Each back will be happy to have the other there, even if just to have someone to mess with after making another highlight-reel play on the field.

“It’s going to be important to have a 1-2 punch,” Brown said. “It keeps me fresh so that helps me out a lot, and vice-versa for him.

“It just works, I guess.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifant


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