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The best-kept secret in the SOC

Crater running back Dan Casey is quietly having a superb season for the 1-5 Comets

CENTRAL POINT - When the bright lights glow and the television cameras roll at the big football game on Friday night, Dan Casey is nowhere to be found.

The Crater High running back plays on a team that has only one victory under its belt over the past two seasons. In Casey's football world, anonymity, obscurity and oblivion rule.

But in his own quiet way, Casey is having a magnificent season.

The 5-foot-8, 185-pound senior ran for a career-high 143 yards on 31 carries as the Comets defeated backyard rival Eagle Point, 14-12, last Friday to snap a 15-game losing streak.

Casey ranks fourth in the Southern Oregon Conference with 603 yards rushing, and his 26 carries per game make him the busiest back in the league.

"He's a hard-nosed kid," Crater coach Randy Heath says. "You'd think he'd get a little worn-out with the workload we give him, but he'd carry the ball 10 more times a game if we'd let him."

What makes Casey's yardage total particularly impressive is that he's operating behind one of the youngest offensive lines in the SOC. Tackle Chris Dearmon is the lone starter intact from a year ago.

"He's got great vision and makes good cuts," Heath says of Casey. "And when there's no hole to run through, he lowers his pads and still manages to gain a yard or two.

"He's just a real tough kid."

And a highly determined one. The Comets, 1-5 heading into Friday's 7:30 p.m. game against North Medford at Spiegelberg Stadium, have been hopelessly out of games against Grants Pass, Roseburg and South Medford over the past month, and yet Casey has given 100-percent effort all the way until the final whistle.

"He's the toughest back we've faced," South Medford coach Bill Singler said after the Panthers defeated Crater, 56-27, on Oct. 5. "He's fast, he runs hard and he knows how to make guys miss."

Says Casey: "I just try to keep my pads low, my feet moving and get positive yards on every play."

Casey is part of a senior class at Crater that has stayed positive this season despite losing five of its first six games. Although not a vocal leader, Casey's work ethic in practice has rubbed off on the younger players, Heath says.

"The atmosphere in practice is much better than last year," Heath says, "and Dan is one of the main guys who make it that way. He loves the game and his emphasis is on what he can do to help win the next game rather than dwell on what happened in the past."

And while winning their final three games and advancing to the state playoffs may seem as nonsensical as the Washington Redskins advancing to the Super Bowl this season, Casey's optimistic attitude has him believing the Comets can do just that.

"We've played well the last three weeks," he says. "I'm looking to win out."

As for individual goals, Casey is looking to surpass the 1,000-yard mark, the standard by which all great backs are measured. He'll need to average about 133 yards over the final three games to do it.

If he does, it'll happen without fanfare, without celebration, without pandemonium.

And that's OK with Casey, whose style has always been to run his legs and not his mouth.

Reach reporter Don Hunt at 776-4469, or e-mail