It’s a routine play. A kickoff, the football spirals through the night sky until it drops into the waiting hands of the player. But this returner does not make routine plays.
Lenape’s Xavier Coleman turns his eyes toward the onrushing defenders. He makes one man miss, then two, then three, and before you know it, there are six points on the scoreboard for the Indians.
When Coleman is on the field, there is no such thing as a routine play.
“Make a big play,” Coleman said. “That is all that goes through my head. When my coach tells me to go out there and make a play, I try to make it for them because I know they are trusting me. I have to show them their trust is in the right place.”
That attitude can cause problems for opposing coaches because there is rarely a play during which Coleman is not on the field. The junior plays running back and defensive back and returns kicks for the 2-0 Indians. For Coleman, it is all about being in a position to help the team win.
So far this season, he has scored five touchdowns in two games. Two of them came on kick returns in a season-opening win over Tottenville (N.Y.), and he added an 84-yard touchdown run against St. Augustine in a Week 2 victory last weekend. He also caught a TD pass against Tottenville.
“He can hurt you in the run or pass game,” Lenape head coach Joe Wojceichowski said. “He’s electric. He possesses some special talents. He is the kind of guy you can only hope to contain because he is going to get his. He makes us coaches look really good sometimes.”
It is impossible to watch Coleman and not see his blazing speed. However, it is Coleman’s toughness that Wojceichowski raves about.
“I was a very physical kid,” Coleman said. “Me and my brothers would always be fighting. So one day, my dad brought me down to the [football] field, and ever since then, I have fallen in love with it.”
That toughness was personified in a play during Lenape’s win over Tottenville. The Indians faced fourth-and-9 when Wojceichowski decided to give the ball to Coleman on a reverse.
“He got to the edge, and he put his foot down,” Wojceichowski said. “He made one cut. Then he plunged forward and got the first down by going right through somebody’s chest. He is not just some little fast guy who wants to run away from people. He wants to run through people.”
After his scorching start to the season, opposing defenses are beginning to game-plan for Coleman. That doesn’t faze him, though. He welcomes the extra attention.
“I just think of it as, if more people are focusing on me, my teammates can get open,” Coleman said. “I feel like with the work I put in that I’ll eventually break one off. I just have to be patient.”
College teams are beginning to take notice, too. Coleman has picked up offers from schools such as Washington State, Rutgers, West Virginia, Central Michigan, Baylor, Boston College, and Temple. Penn State came out to watch him last spring.