WINCHESTER — Tyler Bishop admits the numbers are a bit mind boggling.
The James Wood running back is averaging 261 yards per game and toting the ball an average of 11.3 yards every time he touches it this season.
“It’s awesome,” said the senior tailback, who is a big reason the Colonels are off to a 2-1 start heading into Friday’s game against unbeaten Strasburg (3-0). “You don’t expect that. You expect something big after last season’s finish, but you don’t expect something that big.”
Up until this season, Bishop had been a solid back for Coach Mark McHale. Bishop gained 442 yards and scored four touchdowns as a sophomore and led the playoff-bound Colonels (5-6) with 894 yards and nine scores last fall.
In just three games this fall, he’s nearly eclipsed all of what he did last season.
Bishop opened the season with 282 yards on 26 carries and scored two touchdowns in a 55-21 loss against Heritage, now 3-0. He followed that up with 190 yards and three scores on 25 carries in a 32-20 triumph over Park View.
And last week, he rumbled through Warren County’s defense for 311 yards and five touchdowns on just 19 carries in a 52-34 triumph. The yardage total, punctuated by a 91-yard TD, is believed to have broken the school record for a single game.
Bishop said he had no idea of his statistics.
“In the game, you’re just running,” he said. “You don’t really pay attention to the numbers. After the game, you get in the bus and they’re like, ‘Hey, you ran for such and such a number.’ You’re just like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe that.’”
Bishop’s 783 yards this season is 456 yards more than second-place P.K. Kier of Millbrook among the area leaders. His 11 touchdowns (10 rushing, 1 receiving) also lead all scorers.
While the humble senior may be surprised, his coach is not. McHale has seen something different in his tailback since last season’s 48-0 playoff loss to Sherando.
“After we played Sherando in the playoffs, that next Monday we switched to our off-season program,” McHale said. “Tyler has been working his butt off. I’m talking weightlifting, running. Everything you ask him, his work ethic has been better than it’s ever been.
“That’s the answer.”
At 5-9, 190 pounds, Bishop is not physically imposing and he doesn’t possess blazing speed.
But he’s leaving would-be tacklers in his wake.
“He’s breaking tackles because he’s stronger,” McHale said. “He’s a 300-pound bencher. He wasn’t that strong two years ago or last year. He’s stronger and he’s worked at it. … He’ll break arm tackles. Before, he would go down pretty quick. Now he’s getting that extra yard and fighting in the pile. It’s pure heart.”
McHale also said Bishop is at full speed all of the time.
“When he practices, he practices like he’s playing in the game,” McHale said. “That’s why he’s doing well — work ethic offseason, work ethic in season and he studies film. He can study that film, buddy. He’s like a coach.”
Bishop gives credit to an offensive line that is giving him plenty of room to run. Emmett Smith (RT), Dominic Revetta (RG), Adam Vadell (C), Isaac Schrantz (LG) and Cody Polk (LT) have been dominant this season, even when teams are keying on Bishop.
“I’ll be in games and I’ll hear, ‘Watch No. 28,’ but the line is doing such a great job I don’t have to worry about it,” Bishop said.
“I think it’s a combination of the offensive line’s work ethic and as well as his,” McHale said. “The O-Line has worked hard in the offseason.”
McHale credits assistant coach Steve Clarke’s work with the line in picking up the Colonels’ zone blocking scheme.
“They’ll send the house and those kids will zone block and pick ’em up where other lines would get blown up,” McHale said. “They’re picking all that up and it gets frustrating for defenses because they’re trying to disrupt your running game.”
Bishop also believes he’s gotten better at reading those blocks.
“My first year we put in a lot of zone [blocking] and I really didn’t understand it as well,” he said. “This year it is our bread and butter. It works great.
“The line is getting a great push compared to the past. Towards the end of last year, we were getting better holes, but this year it has been phenomenal.”
Bishop and McHale also say the wide receivers are doing an outstanding job blocking downfield, which allows for the long touchdown runs. Bishop has four touchdown runs of 31 yards or longer.
He’s hardly had a chance to catch his breath after those long gains.
Like so many of his teammates, Bishop rarely comes off the field. He also plays linebacker on defense and returns kicks on special teams.
“He’s doing it all,” said McHale, who will rest Bishop on defense when he can. “He’s playing almost every snap in the game.”
Bishop doesn’t mind and says he rarely gets tired.
“I feel a lot quicker and a lot stronger,” he said. “I feel healthier, too. … I feel like I’m in better shape than I’ve ever been in.”
And he wants to keep carrying the ball as often as he can.
If he does, he may shatter some school records.
According to the online school record book, Bishop is already fifth on the career rushing chart with 2,119 yards. He is on pace this season to break Clayton Hartman’s career rushing mark of 3,024 yards and with 24 career touchdowns he’s on pace to break the school mark of 32 set by Hartman, Jim Barton and Jerry Combs.
Brock Lockhart’s single-season records of 2,016 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns also are not out of the realm of possibility.
Bishop prefers not to listen to talk of records.
“I try not to,” he said. “Coach or some teammates will bring it up, but I don’t like talking about it. I’s almost like a jinx. It’s a curse and I feel like if we don’t talk about it and just keep doing what we’re supposed to do then it will come.”
Bishop, an honor student, hopes a college football career is in his future. He’s received some feelers from Division I-AA and Division II teams.
McHale believes Bishop can play at the next level. The former college coach sees a little bit in Bishop in what he saw in his most famous recruit — Brett Favre at Southern Mississippi.
“He had fun and he enjoyed it,” McHale said of Favre’s enthusiasm from high school and beyond. “I think this boy enjoys football, too. He enjoys the physical part of it and he enjoys watching film and looking at people.”
Bishop says he can’t wait for another opportunity to tote the ball Friday.
“It’s fun,” said the big fan of Steelers back Le’Veon Bell. “The line is doing great. I couldn’t be more happy.”