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November 7, 2011
Tom Bergeron is the Senior Editor for RivalsHigh.com. Send ideas, questions or comments to TBergero@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow on Twitter.
Arizona high school running back D.J. Foster had statistically one of the top performances in high school football history last Friday when he ran for 508 yards and scored 10 touchdowns in a playoff game.
In doing so, he may have got his coach at Saguaro High in Scottsdale off the hook for a dubious coaching decision he made the week before.
Saguaro coach John Sanders opted to rest Foster and roughly a dozen other stars in the school's final regular-season game against Chaparral, arguing his kids needed to get healthy and that the result of the game would have no impact on the team's playoff seeding.
But when the team of backups lost to a top rival, 65-0, many questioned whether Sanders' move was in the best interest of the kids. Some openly questioned whether Sanders should remain as the team's head coach. The local newspaper suggested Sanders should be forced to sit out a game.
After Foster's amazing efforts, the questions may stop. In fact, don't be surprised if fans are now asking: How good would Foster be if he had two weeks to rest?
It's hard to imagine he could be much better than his effort in Saguaro's 81-48 victory over Peoria (Ariz.) Sunrise Mountain in the first round of the Arizona Division III playoffs.
Foster's 10 touchdowns broke the Arizona state record. And while it's unclear if anyone else has had 10 TDs, no one has had more than 10 in the past four decades, according to the National High School Sports Record book.
Two players recorded 11 during the 1968 season. The all-time national record is 13, set by Ricky Lanier in North Carolina in 1967.
Foster needed just 20 carries to reach 508 yards - an average of just over 25 yards per carry. His longest run was 80 and it went for one of his seven rushing touchdowns. He also caught three touchdown passes.
Foster, a 5-11, 180-pound senior, is one of top recruits in the nation. He is ranked as the fifth-best running back nationwide and the 84th best overall recruit.
Wanted by most big-name schools, Foster has said he's down to choosing between Arizona State and Oregon.
Jon Perryman, the editor and publisher of ArizonaVarsity.com - the leading source for high school sports in the state - says Foster is the real deal.
"He is on pace to be player of the year," he said. "He has excellent size and runs very fluidly. He reminds me of Eric Dickerson."
Foster's 10 TDs give him 51 on the season, tying the single-season state record in Arizona. He'll get a chance to break that mark next Thursday, when Saguaro (9-2) plays at Queen Creek in a state quarterfinal game.
As for Sanders, he may find his coaching methods copied by a few others after such an offensive outburst.
The view of his decision to rest his top players appeared to be split among coaches in Arizona and analysts at Rivals.
"I wasn't a fan of holding D.J. out last week," Perryman said. "I know he wanted to be out there."
RivalsHigh national football analyst Dallas Jackson sided with the coach.
"The fans, naturally, want to beat their rival and many thought this group of kids had the talent to do it," he said. "Would it have been worth the win in a rivalry game at the cost of a state title? That had to be the bottom line question for Coach Sanders. His team's goal is to win a state title and it would have had a hard time doing if it would have lost a key piece while trying to beat nationally ranked Chaparral."
You may never get a consensus on whether its right to hold back your starters. This much, however, seems clear: Any coach looks smart when he gets an all-time effort from his top player.