Football – All-Shore Classic: Willis and Volker Lead Loaded Monmouth Backfield
WEST LONG BRANCH - The last time Rumson-Fair Haven graduate and former Bulldogs tailback Charlie Volker saw Dahmiere Willis on the turf at Long Branch High School, Willis was rolling through the Rumson defense on his way to Shore Conference history while Volker watched from the opposite sideline as he nursed an ankle injury.
Volker and Willis will once again share the Bresset Stadium turf in Long Branch this coming Thursday, only this time, both will be suited up to play and the two standout backs will even share the same backfield as part of Monmouth County’s loaded stable of running backs in this year’s U.S. Army All-Shore Gridiron Classic.
Amid his efforts to help his teammates try to beat the Green Wave without him back on Oct. 10, 2014, Volker took the chance to watch one of his tailback counterparts in his element. Willis rushed for 245 yards and three touchdowns on 33 carries in a 19-7 Long Branch win, the fifth straight game of 200 or more rushing yards for Willis on his way to a Shore-Conference-single-season-record 2,589 yards.
“I wasn’t in the Long Branch game, so I got a really good look at Dahmiere up close,” Volker said. “He makes sharp cuts and he has really good balance, which makes him hard to wrap up.”
That early-season ankle injury might have been the only thing keeping Volker from giving Willis some competition for the record. The Rumson speedster ran for 1,441 yards on 191 carries and 18 touchdowns and helped lead Rumson to an NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II championship.
The two standout backs even shared a bit of history on the same night in late October. While Volker was rushing for a school-record 328 yards in a Rumson win over Lakewood – just his second game back from the injury – Willis was busy setting a school record by exploding for 370 yards in a win over eventual Central Jersey Group III champion Matawan.
“He’s a great running back for what he’s been able to accomplish in his career and I think it’s going to be fun to have two guys like that in the same backfield and getting the ball in the same offense,” said Willis, the 2014 Shore Sports Network Offensive Player of the Year. “We’re just out here getting to know one another but I’ve seen his name out there and what he’s done and he’s seen what I’ve done and there’s a lot of respect there.”
Like any two backs, Willis and Volker each brings his own unique style to the game plan and Monmouth County head coach Mark Costantino will have both styles at his disposal.
“He’s the kind of back that’s going to make a bunch of cuts and make guys miss, while I’m more of a one-cut and get up the field kind of back,” Volker said. “It’s going to be fun to see how the two styles work together. The defense is definitely going to have their hands full stopping it.”
Costantino has made the Wing-T a staple of his Shore Regional program during his 23 seasons at the helm and indicated that he would like to try out a backfield that featured both Willis and Volker, with Volker as a fullback. For the most part however, Costantino plans to audition fullbacks to block for either feature back.
“Coach said we’re going to be running a lot of (I-formation), which is good, because that’s what I played in during the season,” Willis said. “That’s the offense I’m most comfortable in, but if we go to the wing, or something else, I know I can handle that too.”
“I played a little fullback at the end of this year, and I kind of liked it,” Volker said. “I didn’t mind getting into the line and hitting somebody, so if coach wants me to do that, I’d be happy to, especially with Dahmiere running.”
Willis and Volker will be the focal point of the Monmouth offense this coming Thursday, but Costantino and his staff have some depth at the position as well. Howell’s Jarvis Leaks, Marlboro’s Mo Omar and Colts Neck’s Abdul Quddus are all running back options as well that figure to play and that depth remains despite the fact that 2014 standouts Imamu Mayfield of Manalapan and Josh Dixon of Freehold Borough will not be playing in the game after being named on the initial Monmouth County roster.
Costantino said Mayfield committed to a camp at the Hun School in Princeton and was not aware of the specifics regarding Dixon’s withdrawal from the game. Despite losing a first-team All-Shore player in Mayfield and a 1,400-yard back in Dixon, the backfield remains the strength of the Monmouth roster.
“I was almost relieved to hear that a couple guys weren’t playing, just so we can give all these other guys a chance to get some more snaps,” Costantino said. “When I first saw the list, I saw we had Dahmiere and Volker as guys who were a cut above and who we could build the game plan around. Not that the other guys aren’t good. We have some other guys out here who could end up having a big game, but those two guys are just a different level, just based on what they’ve done on the field in their careers.”
Willis and Volker will both continue their careers at the next level and each will be looking to climb to the top of the depth chart before their respective openers. Volker will head to Princeton University, while Willis will suit up for American International College in Springfield, Mass.
Volker also added to his list of high school athletic accomplishments after the football season. After returning to lead Rumson to its second straight state championship, Volker capped his high-school athletic career by winning the 100-yard dash at the NJSIAA Meet of Champions for Outdoor Track and Field, running the race in 10.81 seconds.
“I finished 11th as a junior and if I had run my (best time), I would have finished about fifth, so I came back pretty motivated to try and win it,” Volker said. “I spent a lot of time working on my start and doing the kind of work that doesn’t show up during the race and that made all the difference. It also really helps with my explosiveness on the football field.”
Before becoming full-time college student-athletes, the Monmouth County backfield tandem would like to put on one last show for the Shore Conference.
“I played in the state all-star game, so I know how this kind of game goes,” said Willis, referring to the Phil Simms North-South All-Star Classic at Kean University on June 29. “It’s one last chance to show the rest of the Shore what we can do, so we’re just going to go out and make things happen like we always do.”
“Both guys are uniquely talented and they are both going to be a big part of the game on Thursday,” Costantino said. “Especially Dahmiere. He’s going to be playing on his home field, I’m sure he’ll have a whole section of family and friends cheering him on, so I expect him to go off and put on one last show.”