2014 Shore Sports Network Jersey Mike’s Offensive Player of the Year: Dahmiere Willis
Everyone who played Long Branch this season knew what was coming. Stopping it, on the other hand, proved to be a much more difficult matter.
In his first and only season as the starting tailback for the Green Wave, senior Dahmiere Willis produced the greatest statistical season by a Shore Conference running back in history and the second-best rushing season in the history of New Jersey. Willis, who has been selected as the 2014 Shore Sports Network Offensive Player of the Year, ran for a Shore Conference single-season record 2,589 yards and a school-record 27 touchdowns, helping the Green Wave finish 8-3 and reach the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III semifinals.
Willis was a workhorse all season, leading the Shore Conference with 314 carries yet averaging 8.2 yards per carry for the year.
“I’m proud of Dahmiere, and I’ve just enjoyed the ride,” said Long Branch head coach Dan George. “It’s just a ridiculous season. I think it’s his combination of toughness and his eyes that make him great. You’re getting ready because he’s going to pound you and run you over, and then on defense you’re running up to get hit, and the next thing you know he’s made a move on you that leaves you saying, ‘Where did you go?”’
Willis entered Long Branch’s final game of the season, a Thanksgiving showdown with old rival Red Bank Regional, needing 250 yards to pass the previous Shore Conference record of 2,544 yards set by Pinelands’ Matt McLain in 2010. Willis racked up 295 yards and three touchdowns in a 28-14 victory over the Bucs to make history. His 2,589 yards are only 16 away from the state single-season record of 2,605 set by Hoboken’s Tyrell Dortch in 1999. Willis ran for 212 yards in the second half to get the record after a slow start, finishing the game with 39 carries.
“It felt so good,” Willis said. “The last drive (against Red Bank), my coach (Dan George) said, ‘Dahmiere you only need four more yards.’ One carry I got like seven and everyone started going crazy. I was excited.”
Willis had impressive stamina considering he also was a three-year starter on defense in the secondary and played as a returner on special teams. He became the first back at a program with a long history of star running backs to crack the 2,000-yard mark in a single season. Willis finished his career with 3,229 yards rushing after running for 640 yards and nine touchdowns while playing fullback as a junior.
Willis finished this year with six games of 200 or more yards rushing and two 300-yard games, including a school-record 370 yards rushing game in a win over Central Jersey Group III champion Matawan, the highest single-game total of any back in the Shore Conference this season. He becomes the second 2,000-yard rusher in two seasons to earn SSN Offensive Player of the Year honors, following last year’s recipient, Rumson-Fair Haven’s Charlie Volker.
“It’s his strength,” senior offensive lineman Andrew Huff said about what makes Willis so tough. “He’s so strong that you just can’t tackle him with one person.”
Willis has had some interest from FCS programs like Wagner, but most likely will play a postgraduate season at a prep school, according to George. Wherever his career takes him going forward, he has cemented his place in Shore Conference history for the greatest statistical performance by a running back ever seen in this area.
“I will never forget it,’’ Willis said.