HOUSTON - The return of Omarion Dudley on the offensive line, after missing the first two games of the season, was a “shot in the arm” for the North Shore Mustangs’ front line.
Dudley is a three-year starter for the Mustangs. He is a 5-foot-10, 310-pound lineman who brings the experience up front, and it showed on Friday night with him back in the unit.
"To add him back to the mix, he's not in game-shape yet, but he got plenty of reps tonight," North Shore coach Jon Kay said following a 55-25 rout of Westfield. "I think that kind of rejuvenated the offensive line. You could see those kids gelling. Dudley's return has just added to the depth."
Dudley and company pushed around a stout Westfield defensive line to make room for Rashaad Johnson and D'Andre Hardeman to do work out of the backfield.
Johnson led the North Shore ground attack, busting off for 144 yards and three touchdowns on just nine carries. He had touchdown runs of 53, 43 and 16 yards on the night. He now has 276 yards rushing with five scores for the year.
"They mean a lot to me, they are my brothers," Johnson said of his offensive line. "They are in the trenches for real. Big shout out for them. I can't do this without them. As you saw they were locked in and ready to go. I owe them one."
When Johnson wasn't carrying the rock, it was D'Andre Hardeman Jr., who finished with 10 carries for 89 yards and had a pair of short-yardage scores on the night.
With Johnson and Hardeman Jr. coming out of the backfield as well as they are to start the year, Kay is happy with the duo.
"I love it, I think they have very similar running styles," Kay said. "They can both be thunder and they can both be lightening. I saw it in practice. I saw them play well without the football. I saw them be selfless. I see them taking their protection and things more serious and that what makes great running backs.
"I just love the way they are making each other better. They are competing but at the same time they are in it for the same reason and it's exciting to watch."
Quarterback Kaleb Bailey also got into the running action - rushing for a 28-yard touchdown on a highlight-reel-worthy play - and he was well protected all night.
North Shore rushed for 281 total yards and six scores against Westfield on Friday.
Bailey and the offense have orchestrated explosive first quarters this season. Scored 28 against The Woodlands in the opener, 14 against Spring last week and then 27 more against Westfield tonight. In the first 12 minutes of the game this season, North Shore has outscored opponents 69-10.
"The week of preparation," said Bailey of what is attributing to the fast starts. "We've been talking about it all week. We knew what they were going to come out and do. We just came out and executed."
With the win, North Shore improves to 3-0 overall with wins over The Woodlands, Spring and Westfield. The Mustangs will now take a week off and get ready to open District 21-6A play on the road against Beaumont United.
"I think we're pretty explosive on offense and I think we're learning to play the run in the front seven," Kay said. "I want to see us get better in the depth. With the opportunity to watch some kids play in the backend of games, there is still a distance from the every down players in the beginning of the game and the kids that are trying to get more reps at the end. We've got to close that gap and we have to create more depth.
“I think that’s going to be the focus as we start moving forward.”