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Jason Olson, Deseret Morning News
Layton senior running back James Adams, right, tops the talented Layton running back group with 876 yards and nine touchdowns on 143 carries.

LAYTON — So many reasons come to mind to explain Layton's meteoric rise from Region 1 cellar dweller to a team playing for a state title.

A stifling defense ranked first in 5A. A senior quarterback in Gavin Green with out-of-this-world playmaking abilities — highlighted by his zig-zagging 49-yard run here, there and everywhere that propelled the Lancers to a 28-14 semifinal victory over American Fork.

But one seemingly forgotten component is Layton's rushing attack. Which seems strange if you think about it. Of all the available weapons in the Lancers' arsenal, the backfield has consistently stood out as one of the most effective.

Four running backs — LaVaughn Jackson, James Adams, Karl Williams and Chad Willson — have combined to produce almost 2,500 yards of offense among them.

Each back brings different running styles and different skill sets to the backfield, which offers Layton several methods of attack to choose from on any given running play.

"We just have depth in every position," Williams said. "I think that really helps us because people don't know what to expect."

Statistically, Adams and Jackson nearly mirror one another. Adams leads the team with 876 yards and nine touchdowns on 143 carries. Jackson is keeping pace with totals of 858 yards and 13 touchdowns on 134 carries.

Willson — who is also the team's leading tackler with 97 tackles — is not far behind them with 553 yards and nine touchdowns on 97 carries.

If any of them suited up for another team as its featured running back, it's possible most of them could have produced 1,000-yard seasons and finished among the state's top 20 rushers.

But Layton employs a strategy of spreading the ball around instead of depending on a particular back to function as a workhorse. Using such a philosophy ends up giving opposing defenses more than one runner to fret over.

"We always got a fresh running back in there," Adams said.

There are practical reasons for Layton coach Jim Batchelor choosing to deploy several backs versus relying on one star runner. For one, it cuts down on fatigue and the chance of injury. Not only that, but the Lancers benefit from added depth and a stronger consistency on offense.

Other teams can't expect to stop the Lancer ground game by zeroing in on a particular back and shutting him down.

"That makes it easier for us," Batchelor said. "You only have one back and he's not having a good day, it can hurt a team. We're fortunate we have four kids that can carry the ball very well."

Spreading the wealth in the backfield hasn't bred any sort of running back controversy for the Lancers. If anything, Willson, Williams, Jackson and Adams are a tight-knit group. If one comes up with a solid play, he can expect his fellow backs to be the first ones in line offering high fives and congratulatory words.

"I get (asked) a lot, 'How do you feel sharing the backfield with these guys? Is there a lot of competition?"' Jackson said. "It's competition, but it's friendly competition."

E-mail: jcoon@desnews.com