When he wasn’t running, he was limping between plays on the sideline.
He labored just to get on and off the field.
And after the game, after his teammates were gone and celebrating, Bhayshul Tuten laid on a trainer’s table getting treatment on a severely cramped left leg and injured toe.
He could barely walk. But, somehow, he could run.
Tuten carried the ball 23 times for 85 yards just in the second half. He carried the ball on 16 of his team’s final 19 plays. And he carried his second-seeded Paulsboro to a 20-14 win over visiting Glassboro in Saturday afternoon’s opening round of the South Jersey Group 1 playoffs.
“I just tried to work through it, push through it,” said Tuten, a junior who finished with 39 carries for 137 yards and two touchdowns despite the injury that flared up early in the third quarter, causing him to miss just one series.
“I knew that was coming,” Tuten said of the heavy workload down the stretch. “That’s what I prepared for. I just have to fight and run hard. It’s just your drive, mentally. I wanted it all. I wanted the [W]. So I couldn’t let [injuries] affect me.”
Tuten’s performance was emblematic of an overall gutsy effort by Paulsboro.
Glassboro was tough on both sides of the ball, and Paulsboro won largely because it was able to control the tempo late despite not scoring in the second half.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game. … I have a lot of respect for Glassboro, and I tried to emphasize that to the kids,” said Paulsboro coach Glenn Howard, whose Red Raiders advanced to Friday’s semifinals, a home game against a Gateway team that Paulsboro beat, 36-20, on Nov. 1.
This was Howard’s 299th career win. With one more, he will join Florence’s Joe Frappolli and St. Joseph’s Paul Sacco as the only active South Jersey football coaches with at least 300 wins.
Not that he’s paying much attention.
“That’s in the background,” said Howard, in his 34th season as Paulsboro’s head coach. “I’m just trying to win the next game and move on one step closer to a championship.”
While he’s not trying to draw attention to himself, Howard’s savvy was on display Saturday afternoon, particularly in his handling of Tuten.
Despite being visibly injured, Howard had a good feel for how much Tuten had left to give.
“If he’s out on the field and he can go, he’s our workhorse,” Howard said.
Paulsboro took an early 12-0 lead with two touchdowns in a span of 1 minute, 30 seconds.
After Tuten capped a 54-yard drive with a 3-yard score, Glassboro made something of an unforced error on the ensuing kickoff. A Glassboro player backed away from the ball as if it was a punt. Of course, the ball was live. Paulsboro (7-2) fell on it and gained possession at the Glassboro 6-yard line. That led to a 5-yard touchdown pass from Tyree Thomas to Jacob Perez-Eli with 5:14 left in the first quarter.
Thomas, just a sophomore, looked poised in his first playoff start, and he wasn’t rattled each time Glassboro (3-6) looked as if it was about to mount a comeback.
On Glassboro’s first offensive play of the second half, Dymeir Still (23 carries, 176 yards) escaped for a 67-yard touchdown to bring his team to within one possession with almost an entire half of football to play.
But it was ultimately the last points scored in the game. Instead of a comeback, Paulsboro held Glassboro to just two first downs and just 21 net yards for the rest of the game.
Meanwhile, Tuten carried the ball 16 times for 64 yards just in the fourth quarter in an effort to keep the Glassboro offense off the field.
“It was a dog fight,” Thomas said. “We just had to stick together and come out with the win.
“We know at any given moment, you can go through adversity in a game. It’s just a matter of, ‘Are you going to get through that adversity or are you going to fold?’ We came through as a team.”
Glassboro 7 0 7 0 — 14
Paulsboro 12 8 0 0 — 20
P: Bhayshul Tuten 3 run (kick blocked)
P: Jacob Perez-Eli 4 pass from Tyree Thomas (pass failed)
G: Keon Sabb 37 pass from Gavin Shielfs (Nick Newell kick)
P: Tuten 6 run (Tuten pass from Thomas)