Elijah Dunn’s worth to the Indian Creek football team this season is evidenced by the number of statistical categories he’s in.
Offense, defense, special teams. Name it and Dunn, a 5-foot-11, 160-pound senior, is probably among the leaders for a Braves team now enjoying a three-game win streak.
Naturally, this leads to something of a chicken-or-egg discussion.
Is Dunn is a receiver occasionally moonlighting as a wildcat formation quarterback, a tailback capable of throwing the football or something else altogether?
Even a Hall of Fame coach like Mike Gillin can’t totally answer the question.
“I’ve been telling Elijah for two years that he’s our utility guy because he can play receiver, quarterback, running back, safety, cornerback and if we had to rush the passer in passing situations,” said Gillin, who, in his 37th season of coaching high school football in Indiana, has notched 296 career wins.
Better known for his dominance on a wrestling mat — he placed fourth at the State Finals last February in the 152-pound weight class — the soft-spoken Dunn insists being a wrestler helps in football.
And vice versa.
“I think wrestling makes you a little bit more athletic with anything else you do. Any other sport. It helps with balance and staying on your feet,” Dunn said.
“In wrestling you’re used to dealing with a lot of pressure, so it’s something I’m kind of used to. Wrestling has always been my main sport, so I think I’m a little bit better at that.”
Just don’t attempt to sell this to anyone affiliated with North Decatur’s football program.
Dunn’s contributions in Friday’s 32-6 triumph over the visiting Chargers proved mammoth. Along with his career-high 201 yards rushing, Dunn completed a pass for 18 yards and scored three of the Braves’ touchdowns.
Gillin implemented a similar strategy two years ago when then-junior tailback Dokken Egenolf’s season-ending injury forced the coach to move versatile Brenden Smith to the backfield.
This time it was more a case of kick-starting a running attack that, behind a young offensive line, could barely escape its own shadow through Indian Creek’s first four games.
Inserted as his team’s go-to back in Week 5, Dunn rushed for 140 yards in a 67-13 romp at Brown County, finished with 83 yards in the win at Milan the following week and then scorched North Decatur with 200-plus yards.
“We were struggling with our running game so much and just needed a little more of a game-wrecker type guy at running back. Elijah is more full-time running back now. But if all things were equal, he’s probably a receiver,” Gillin said.
“Being a wrestler, Elijah is just so competitive. He’s really a tough kid who stays on his feet really well and isn’t afraid of contact. We had two games early where we had negative yards rushing, so we had to do something. Right now it’s working out, so we’re going to stay with this plan.”
Regardless of how many games Indian Creek plays this football season, Dunn insists he’ll be ready once wrestling season begins.
Instead of bumping up to a heavier weight class, he plans to remain at 152.
This winter represents Dunn’s 10th year as a wrestler. The workload he’s putting in for Braves’ football is his ninth year of competitive football.
“Football is just kind of my break from wrestling. My fun sport,” he said. “Something extra to do other than just the one sport.”
As Indian Creek closes in on the postseason, Dunn himself has been that something extra.
A DUNN DEAL
Senior Elijah Dunn has made his way into no less than 10 statistical categories for Indian Creek’s football team this season. Here are but a few:
Passing – 4 of 13, 63 yards, 0 TDs, 2 int.
Rushing – 79 carries, 504 yards, 6 TDs
Scoring – 36 points