It’s no secret senior running back Isaiah Davis has been the bell cow for the Joplin offense for much of the past two seasons.
And while his junior season was remarkable in its own right, Davis’ numbers are even stronger in his senior season for the Class 6 third-ranked Eagles (9-0), putting him in a position to have one of the greatest rushing seasons the program has ever had.
Through nine games, Davis has accumulated 1,453 yards and 27 touchdowns on the ground and has also caught 10 passes for 125 yards and two scores. He is averaging 161.4 rushing yards per game, but the really impressive number is his yards-per-carry average: 10.2.
“Not only can he run the ball extremely well, but he can block well and catch the ball out of the backfield,” Joplin coach Curtis Jasper said. “He can do everything. You have a guy who can play the big back, but he can also make people miss and has a burst. I think he is one of the best players in the state to be honest with you.”
Looking through his game-by-game numbers, Davis, a 6-foot-1, 230-pound South Dakota State commit, has eclipsed the 100-yard mark eight times this season. The only game he didn’t pass the century mark was against Webb City in Week 2, when he rushed 18 times for 91 yards. His lowest output since that game came against Noesho in Week 6, when he carried the ball 12 times for 128 yards, averaging 10.7 yards per carry. His most-impressive performance came against Nixa in Week 8, when he gained 245 yards on 13 carries.
“It seems like he never gets tackled for a loss,” Jasper said. “He can always get you back to the line of scrimmage, which is huge because you never want to be playing behind the sticks.
“He has played a lot of different defenses this year, but it also helps that he has a lot of talent around him. He has Zach Westmoreland, who is also one of the best players in the state, Nathan Glades, and I think sometimes people forget about the great year Blake Tash is having, as well.”
We know efficiency is a large key to success for the Joplin offense, and Davis embodies that theme. He has averaged more than 10 yards per carry six times this season, and averaged more than 15 yards per carry against Republic (16.4) in Week 4, Ozark (15.9) in Week 7 and Nixa (18.8) in Week 8.
“He is just consistent,” Jasper said. “I am glad he is on our side. I wish I could have him back again next year, but I am excited to see how is career develops at the next level.”
At first glance, you might think Davis — a three-sport athlete who is the point guard for the basketball team and a standout track and field athlete — is a one-trick pony as a bruising-style running back. Yes, his power as a runner is undeniable, but it is far from the only way Davis gets past a defender.
Davis has shown time and again he can absolutely run through would-be tacklers, or give them one of the meanest stiff arms you may ever see in a prep football game. But his quick feet and speed allow him to jump cut in an instant and make defenders miss badly, spin off a tackler or just run by them.
“I think we started seeing that towards the end of last year in the postseason,” Jasper said. “He just continues to build off of that. He has success, and instead of being complacent or satisfied with it, he works harder to get better.
“He is very talented, but he also works extremely hard. A lot of it comes from the drills he does and things he works at every day in practice. He has made himself into an all-around back.”
Davis also has a nose for the end zone, having scored two or more touchdowns on the ground in all but one game this season. His season-high came against Carthage, when he scored five times on the ground. Davis had four-touchdown games against Republic and Nixa and scored three times on the ground against Willard, Ozark and Carl Junction. Also of note, of his 27 rushing scores this season, nine of them have gone for 25 yards or more.
“He can score from anywhere, and we haven’t had to run our tank package nearly as much this year because we don’t need to with how he runs near the goal line,” Jasper said. “When he is down by the goal line, he is going to find a way to get in. He had a 90-yard run (that didn’t go for a score) against Nixa and was obviously gassed but still found a way to get into the end zone from 6 yards out on the next play.”
Of course, if you ever get the chance to ask Davis, or any of the Joplin skill-position players for that matter, about his success this season, he will put all of the credit on the doorstep of his offensive line — Alex Curry, Dominick Loyd, Logan Myers, Hunter McCleary, Sergio Pineiro and Davis Ramsey — which is a testament to his leadership capabilities.
“He would much rather give the linemen credit,” Jasper said with a laugh. “He loves playing with his friends and for his teammates. He’s not going to be the guy in front, the ra-ra guy, but he is going to be the guy behind the scenes putting his arm around his teammates to steer them in the right direction. I think that is extremely valuable, and it shows what a good person and leader he is.”
With the postseason approaching rapidly, if Joplin matches or surpasses its playoff run from last season, making it to the Class 6 semifinal game, there is a real possibility Davis rushes for more than 2,000 yards in his final season with the Eagles.