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Tom Mix, Published October 05 2012

Griffith nears Richland single-season rushing, touchdown records

Colfax, N.D.

Kayne Griffith can remember watching his uncle, Jon Griffith, play running back for the Richland High School football team while he was in grade school.

He studied his uncle’s running style and watched as he won North Dakota

9-man Player of the Year honors leading the Colts to a state championship in 2005.

The younger Griffith joined in the celebration. But in the days following his uncle’s big day at the Dakota Bowl, Griffith put his uncle Jon on notice that he would be going full speed to one day match him step for step.

“I told him one of these days I’m going to catch up to you,” Kayne Griffith recalls saying.

The 5-foot-9 junior running back wasn’t off on his prediction. In fact, he may have undersold himself a little.

Griffith is in position to eclipse two of his uncle’s single-season rushing records when the Colts play Ellendale at 7 p.m. today at Chahinkapa Park in Wahpeton, N.D. He is just 23 yards shy of breaking the single-season rushing mark of 2,047 and is tied for the single-season touchdowns record with 23.

“I have looked up to him my whole life,” Kayne Griffith said of his uncle. “A lot of my running style comes from watching him play. So for me to be here and chasing his records is a real sweet deal.

“My goal was to have a good year, but I exceeded the expectations that I had for myself.”

Griffith, who is a two-way starter playing linebacker on defense, has rushed for 2,024 yards on 195 carries.

He is coming off the best game of his career, in which he rushed for 438 yards on 47 carries and five touchdowns in Richland’s 34-26 win over Sargent Central.

Though his time atop the record charts is rapidly expiring, Jon Griffith is enjoying watching his nephew’s standout season.

“It has been fun watching him,” said Jon Griffith, who coaches Richland’s junior high football team and helps assist on the varsity. “I try to help him out as much as possible, but he doesn’t need much help. He is doing pretty well.”

Kayne Griffith has been held to less than 200 yards rushing only once this season and averages 289.1 yards per game.

“He is a freak,” Richland head coach Kal Triplett said. “I pretty much call the same play every down. The other teams know what is coming, but it just doesn’t matter.”

Griffith’s size would suggest he would not fit the mold of a bruising, power runner who starts his big runs between the tackles. Triplett said that is just not the case with his feature back.

“He is a north-south runner,” Triplett said. “He is just a small, short guy that is super-fast and super-strong for his body size. He breaks as many tackles as a big running back would.”

Griffith, who was named to the 9-man all-state second team a year ago, is also quick to attribute much of his success to his offensive line and has been known to treat his linemen to dinner after a big game.

“Last time I took them out to the Texas Roadhouse,” Griffith said. “I got those big boys a nice steak. They deserve it. They are the ones that are giving me all this and opening the holes for me. Without them none of this would be possible for me.”

The Colts are 4-3 and are in sixth place in Region 1.

Griffith was Richland’s second leading rusher as a freshman and split carries as a sophomore, but this fall he’s ascended to the

go-to runner.

“We knew going into this year he was going to get the majority of the load and he would have some good numbers,” Triplett said. “I didn’t expect this much, but due to some injuries, he has been getting 90 percent of the carries.

“He has put in a ton of time practicing in the offseason ever since he was a freshman. All of his rewards are coming from the hard work he has put into it.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Tom Mix at (701) 241-5562