Carson's Sula benefits from strong work ethicThose who want a glimpse at the qualities that distinguish junior running back Jack Sula of Carson, start with this: On his most recent progress report, he had an A in algebra II, an A in chemistry, an A in U.S. history and an A in American literature.
Then there are his individual game performances: 245 yards rushing against Wilmington Banning, 221 yards against La Puente Bishop Amat, 187 yards against Gardena, 162 yards against Venice, 152 yards against Harbor City Narbonne, 125 yards against Woodland Hills Taft.
If those accomplishments don't elicit a measure of respect, how about this lesson he said he learned from his father: "My dad always told me that before you act, think what's at stake and think what you want for the future."
Then there was the time last year he was struggling with his Spanish class and asked for help.
"We had some knuckleheads in my class and my teacher was teaching the work but nobody cared," he said. "I wasn't doing well but wanted to. I asked after class if I could get extra lessons. I ended up going from a C to an A. There's no such thing as a stupid question."
These are just a few reasons that Sula, 5 feet 11 and 185 pounds, deserves a place on the list of the Southland's outstanding junior running backs. From Darrell Scott of Moorpark to Milton Knox of Lake Balboa Birmingham, from Ryan Bass of Corona Centennial to Curtis McNeal of Venice, these rushers deliver big games and big efforts week after week.
Sula, with a 3.8 grade-point average and a work ethic that should keep him improving, is just beginning to fulfill his potential. He has rushed for 1,367 yards and scored 19 touchdowns this season.
"He's not a blazer," Coach Mike Christensen said, "but he's tough and has great instincts. He's going to be something special next year."
He's good enough this season to give the Colts (7-3) hope of contending for the City Championship division title. The Colts begin the playoffs Thursday night with a home game against San Fernando (7-2).
Carson is loaded with quality young players. Besides Sula, junior quarterback Dominique Blackman, 6-4 and 232, has displayed moments of athleticism and ability, passing for 1,290 yards and 12 touchdowns. Consistency and experience are what's missing.
"He has all the potential in the world," Christensen said.
The left-handed Blackman arrived at Carson this season after transferring from Gardena. The first person who greeted him was Sula, and the two have become friends and loyal teammates.
"The first thing I got to say is that dude relieves a lot of pressure off me," Blackman said. "He's a tremendous athlete and does things on the field I've never seen."
And Sula has equal respect for Blackman, saying, "He's one of the best athletes I've seen in a while."
Whether the two have gained enough experience with their supporting cast to make it to the Coliseum, site of the championship game, remains to be seen.
Blackman's major task is continuing to learn to read defenses.
"I was looking at my receivers instead of looking at defensive backs," he said of some early-season mishaps.
The Colts couldn't score in the second half of a Marine League title decider against San Pedro, losing, 21-14. They had to settle for being part of a three-way tie for first place.
All Carson wants is a second chance, and the playoffs offer that opportunity for teams that stumbled during the regular season but have the talent to make a title run.
Blackman is learning to be a leader while gaining insight into the intricacies of the quarterback position.
Like Sula, he's a good student and understands that people are watching.
"My parents focus on me being a good citizen and being a good mentor to my nephews and nieces," he said.
There are other young Carson players to admire, including 300-pound junior offensive lineman Matt Hunt and 6-3 sophomore tight end Morrell Presley. But if the Colts are to make a title run, Sula and Blackman will have to lead the way.
They're certainly setting the right example on and off the field.
Eric Sondheimer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org