WRENTHAM, Mass. -- All eyes will be on Charles Ruffin this fall.
The King Philip running back has been an integral part of the 23rd-ranked Warriors offense for the last couple seasons, but this year is going to be different. Ruffin is one of two starters (along with Nick Lussier) coach Brian Lee has returning from last year's squad. So this season, more than ever, the Warriors will turn to Ruffin not only offensively, but defensively and as a leader.
"I just have to take on a heavier role," the 5-foot-10, 190-pounder said. "I have to be ready, twenty-four seven. We have a couple other kids who can perform at the position, too. But we're going to need a lot of young kids to step up this year."
Last season, Ruffin was part of a deep backfield in which he shared carries alongside the talented Chris Cacciola and Jimmy Johnston. Now, the multi-talented athlete is taking a new emphasis into this season.
"I want to play as hard on defense as I do on offense," said Ruffin, who's looking to improve on his eight-touchdown performance last season. "That's my main goal. I just want to do whatever I can to help this team out."
Ruffin also stars on the Warriors lacrosse team. He hadn't even played the sport until he picked up a stick at a friend's suggestion in high school. He was a natural from the start. Ruffin's athleticism is an asset on the lacrosse field as it is on the football field. It also helps that Ruffin was the MIAA Division 2 Meet 300-meter champion last year, posting a time (35.21 seconds) that was nearly five-tenths of a second faster than last year's Division 1 champion (Isaiah Penn of Newton North). Ruffin also finished second in the event at New Englands.
Ruffin's taken seriously the preparation for his senior season. Despite undergoing orthroscopic knee surgery to clean out cartilage and tissue two months ago, Ruffin was back with his teammates at KP's "Gut Camp", which has players in the gym at 6 a.m. Mondays through Thursday during the summer months.
It's all part of Ruffin's duty to take on a greater leadership role this season, something he learned from one of his former backfield mates.
"He was a tough kid," Ruffin said of Cacciola, "and he set an example on and off the field."
Part of that process is making sure younger players are doing what's required to contribute. Given the exodus of talent from a senior-laden team last season, the Warriors are looking for a great number of young players to make that leap this year.
"We just have to get better every day, every game," said Ruffin, who lists BC as his top college choice. Assumption has been the most active recruiting him. "There's a lot of talent on the team and we're going to play a lot of kids to keep everybody fresh."
KING PHILIP AT A GLANCE
2010: 8-2 (7-2 Hockomock)
Coach: Brian Lee (Seventh year, 33-32)
Players to watch: Charles Ruffin, Sr. RB/OLB, 5-10, 190; Nick Lussier, Sr. LB 5-10, 170; Jason Litchfield, Sr. OL/DL, 5-10, 190.
Strengths: Team speed, swarming defense.
Weaknesses: Game experience.
Outlook: Wanna' talk defense? The Warriors will bring it. Last season, under defensive coordinator Matt Wassel, KP allowed just over nine points per game. That success was in no small part a credit to Wassel's creative defensive schemes, which famously features a "psycho" package that confuses quarterbacks with defensive linemen not settling into their stances. "We have a great defensive coordinator and our game plans change a lot week to week," said Ruffin, who added he'll be utilized as a third-down sub rusher. "We'll have guys coming at you all over the place blitzing. I feel that every team thinks they need to play their best game against us." The question will likely come down to how many points the Warriors can score, as they're holding an open audition at quarterback with Jake Cox lost to graduation. And all of this is set against the backdrop of the ever-competitive Hock. "It's a dog fight against every team," Ruffin said of league play. "Even a team like Sharon last year, they weren't the strongest team in the league, but they gave us our biggest challenge last year. They took us right down to the wire. It's one game and you're out. One loss and that can be your season."