|Blue Hills running back Vincent Burton is looking beyond school rushing records to another Super Bowl appearance. (Barry Chin/Globe Staff)|
On a roll for Blue Hills
Burton felling foes, records
While many eyes in the high school football world are focusing on players such as Everett’s Jonathan DiBiaso, as he chases Tom Colombo’s coveted state passing touchdowns record, or BC High’s Preston Cooper, as he leads the charge for a resurgent Eagles team, other spectators have their sights on a Division 4A team and its prolific, young runner, Vincent Burton.
Burton, the Globe’s Division 4 Player of the Year last season, ran for 1,549 yards a year ago for Blue Hills, scoring 30 touchdowns and 202 points, for first place in the division by far (runner-up Laquane Bradham of West Roxbury had 12 touchdowns and 88 points).
His strong play last season willed his team to its first Super Bowl appearance since 1984. That was the year running back Richard Sass scored a school-record 32 touchdowns to go along with 1,842 yards. Sass reached that mark as a finely tuned senior; Burton missed that mark by two touchdowns as a sophomore. In fact, Burton became the youngest player in school history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season. Not even Richard Fahey, who holds the school’s all-time season rushing record with 2,032 yards in 1975, hit the 1,000-yard mark at such a young age.
Blue Hills coach Ed Catabia, who has coached the Warriors since 1980 and watched Sass set the record in 1984, sees striking similarities between the running backs.
“Sass was one of the toughest runners I’ve ever coached at Blue Hills. He was the type to run you over and lay you out if you were in front of him - no matter what,’’ said Catabia, who believes a hard-nosed approach is also Burton’s strength.
“Burton and [Sass] are the same exact runners. [Burton] never complains about getting hit, who’s hitting him, or how hard he has to go through the line, and that’s his strength when running the ball. “He is big and powerful and will flat out knock you down if you are in his way.’’
Burton’s toughness is more ingrained than something he has learned.
“I never get scared [running the ball],’’ he said. “One thing about me when I run is I never try to evade you. If you’re going to hit me, I’m going to hit you back. I never just stand up and let someone hit me. I just hit them first.’’
This season he has already accumulated 531 yards (5.3 per carry) and 11 touchdowns in just three games for the 3-0 Warriors.
Burton’s surge has attracted quite a following.
His former Randolph-Holbrook Pop Warner coach Bob Sass, the brother of current record holder Richard, has been to Blue Hills’s early games and expects this will be the season his brother’s long-standing record is broken.
“It feels really good to have a former player doing so well at this level,’’ said Bob Sass. “If it were going to be anyone to break my brother’s record, who is dear to me, I’d want for it to be a kid as good as Burton.
“At this rate he’s going to score 100 touchdowns for his career. The entire Sass family is rooting for him.’’ Sass also coached last year’s EMass-leading scorer Blaise Branch of Cardinal Spellman the same year he had Burton.
Burton’s teammates - most notably the offensive line (tackles Nick Catrambone and Zachary Tempone; guard William Asomugha and Brian Onyechefule; center Kevin O'Callaghan and tight ends Donyee Evans and David Neil) - have gotten much praise as they pave the way for their featured back.
“[Vincent’s running] makes me feel like a bigger man,’’ said right tackle Nick Catromboni, who has played with Burton since their Pop Warner days. “It puts me in the spotlight too. He’s a great runner and I’m so happy to be blocking for him.’’
Burton, after Blue Hills’s first three wins, including yesterday’s 40-0 victory over North Shore, believes his team is on the right track.
“We’re good now, but just keep getting better and better every week it seems. If we keep playing like this, maybe we will have another Super Bowl appearance,’’ he said.
The only question now is not whether Burton can lead his team to another Super Bowl berth, or if he can break Richard Sass’s record, but whether he can finally boost the Warriors toward what the other legends, Fahey and Sass couldn’t achieve - a Super Bowl championship.