Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Paying Dues Pays off for Senior Back

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Paying Dues Pays off for Senior Back

Article excerpt

RIDGEFIELD PARK - Elijah Carlos waited his turn.

And that, in itself, is worth a headline in this day and age. Instead of pouting or shopping around for a better situation while being stuck behind two 1,000-yard rushers last season, the Ridgefield Park senior running back simply paid his dues.

Now, Carlos couldn't be happier with the dividends.

"Look, everyone wants to be the star," said Carlos, who leads the fifth-seeded Scarlets into Friday night's North 2, Group 3 semifinal against No. 1 Cranford. "But I also know that if I didn't block, the other running backs wouldn't have been successful and we wouldn't have won games.

"I understand. Everyone's time comes. Right now, this is my time."

And what a time it's been. The 5-foot-11, 180-pounder has emerged as one of North Jersey's most effective rushers, churning out 1,755 yards and 18 touchdowns in 10 games.

"He's a human muscle," said Ridgefield Park coach Pete Kraljic. "He can take a beating inside, but then outrun you on the outside. He just runs hard."

But nothing was handed to Carlos. He earned this high-profile job, starting in January when the Scarlets began weight training.

Kraljic said Carlos came in and "controlled the weight room," showing up every day at 6 a.m., working hard and showing off his leadership skills.

"I knew this was going to be my first year carrying the ball," Carlos said. "I was just a small, shifty guy, but I packed on the weight - maybe a good 30 pounds - and became more explosive.

"That helped me take hits. It actually made me faster."

This whole season has been a learning experience for Carlos as he made the adjustment from blocking back to tailback. He said he began to pay closer attention to what his linemen were doing, and became more aware of his options with the ball.

"I paid more attention in practice," Carlos said. "I paid more attention to defenses, and what they were doing and what they were giving us. …

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