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story.lead_photo.caption John Marcus Carruthers, Shiloh Christian junior, plays at running back and safety for the Saints. - Photo by Jason Ivester

SPRINGDALE — Entering the Shiloh Christian program as a sophomore, John Marcus Carruthers was expected to play a somewhat limited role behind two stellar senior running backs.

Carruthers figured he’d play special teams, and maybe get his feet wet late in games on offense as the bulk of the touches were earmarked for Chandler Smith and Kyle Freeman.

TODAY’S TICKET

Hootens.com Kickoff Classic At Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium

Fort Smith Southside vs. Alma, 6 p.m.

Charleston vs. Shiloh Christian, 8 p.m.

Schedule

Sept. 1 Charleston# TBD

Sept. 11 Bastrop, La. 7 p.m.

Sept. 18 at Tulsa (Okla.) Victory Christian 7 p.m.

Sept. 25 at Berryville* 7 p.m.

Oct. 2 Huntsville* 7 p.m.

Oct. 9 at Prairie Grove* 7 p.m.

Oct. 16 at Gentry* 7 p.m.

Oct. 23 Lincoln* 7 p.m.

Oct. 30 at Gravette 7 p.m.

Nov. 6 Pea Ridge 7 p.m.

# at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium

*4A-1 Conference game

Five games into the season, the plan changed dramatically when Smith injured a knee and Freeman broke his forearm. Carruthers went from getting his feet wet to being tossed into the deep end of the pool.

“It was a big step,” Carruthers said earlier this summer. “I had to step up and grow up. I had to grow up really fast.”

Carruthers (5-foot-9, 180 pounds) emerged in the fifth game of the season against Huntsville and he improved every game. By the end of the season, he rushed for 663 yards and seven touchdowns, and was a threat out of the backfield in the passing game, turning short passes into big gains like a 75-yard burst against Lincoln.

“I had the full support of my teammates,” said Carruthers. “When they showed they trusted in me, it boosted my confidence.

“I started to get more touches, and I just kept working, and working, and working and now we’re here.”

Saints coach Jeff Conaway said Carruthers was ready to take that step from junior high to varsity early in the season.

“He wanted it. He wanted to be out there,” Conaway said. “He wanted to put his stamp on the game. When we gave him that opportunity, he got a taste of it, and he loved it and he wasn’t the same ever since.”

Carruthers, who will also see time at strong safety tonight as the Saints open the season at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium against two-time defending 3A state champion Charleston, seemed to get stronger later in the year, once the game slowed down a little. He saved his best game for the playoffs, where he tore through Jonesboro Westside for 272 all-purpose yards, including 138 rushing, 44 receiving and 90 on three kickoff returns.

This season Carruthers is ready to push the bar even higher.

“I’ve gotten a lot stronger and my vision has gotten significantly better,” he said. “My cuts are more dynamic, so I’m ready to showcase them.”

Carruthers said time in the weight room during the offseason have increased his squat and dead-lift as coaches focused on strengthening his lower body to take the pounding of more carries this season.

“I’ve really worked on my legs to improve my breakaway speed,” Carruthers said.

Print Headline: Carruthers grows up quickly for Saints

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