CHARLOTTE, N.C. (BVM) — When a senior running back sets a state record, it might be easy to look back on the previous four years of work spent building to that moment. When that senior is playing his first season as a running back after spending three years at wide receiver, that’s a different story.
That’s Providence High School’s Luke Bailey, who put up a North Carolina state-record nine rushing touchdowns against Parkwood High School on Sept. 2.
“It didn’t really hit me,” Bailey said. “I don’t think, I think I was more excited about the win and I didn’t really take it in right away. … I mean, just seeing everything on social media and in the news and on the news on TV and stuff. I still feel like I haven’t really completely grasped the idea that, you know, me and my team broke a state record.”
Providence wears the word “family” on the back of its football helmets, and Bailey feels that he has that kind of relationship with his team. Nowhere is that more evident than his relationship with his offensive line.
The relationship between a running back and his offensive line is key on the football field. The running back has to trust his line to open up holes, and the offensive line has to trust that the running back is going to go where they can open a hole in the defense.
“I love those guys,” Bailey said. “They’re just a funny group of guys and they’re really easy to get along with. We’ve got a strong relationship on the field. I think our coaches kind of establish that as well. It’s really, you know, we’re all one family and I love those guys. They make it fun for me. It’s when they show me that they want to block for me, it makes me want to run the ball well for them…
“I’m not even getting touched within the first five yards. And it’s like, it literally felt like we were running the play perfectly as we drew it up. I literally don’t think I was making anything spectacular happen. I was just running, running where I was supposed to go at a wide-open hole, and then at that point, I only got to make two or three guys miss. They made it a lot easier on me. I wasn’t out there just, you know, making crazy spectacular plays throwing guys off me.”
Despite Bailey’s emphasis on his offensive line, you don’t have a game with a stat line of 36 carries for 429 yards and nine touchdowns without making some serious plays. All it takes is one look at the highlights of the game to see that. The Providence offensive line was dominant, making it easy for Bailey to get five yards before encountering defenders. There were other times when Bailey had to make guys miss early in the play and he did time and time again.
All that goes to show that it requires a lot to go right and a lot of people putting in a great week of work, including offensive coordinator Jeremy Johnson. Per Bailey, Johnson had an integral role in the record.
“I wasn’t really thinking about it until we got into halftime and I had five touchdowns,” Bailey said. “Coach Johnson spoke to me and the offensive line and told us that the record was eight and they hadn’t stopped us yet at that point. … We just kept running the ball and we knew we were gonna get it.”
Bailey spent the first three years of his varsity career playing wide receiver and was special there, earning all-conference honors his junior season. Yet the transition to running back may have unlocked something special. Only the week before, he had 336 yards and five rushing touchdowns against South Mecklenburg.
Yet Bailey has no college offers. The position change may explain that, and since the South Meck and Parkwood games, it appears that colleges are taking notice of a budding star at running back.
“I’ve gotten a couple of DMs on Twitter and talking to coaches,” Bailey said. “Coach Waters told me about a couple of schools that have reached out, but honestly nothing, nothing that big, you know. Definitely gotta keep proving.”
Bailey has lofty goals for both himself and his team. He wants to prove that he is a special athlete and be named all-state en route to getting a scholarship offer to continue his football career. He also wants to win the West 4A conference and make a deep run in the playoffs.
“I really, really want to win the conference this year,” Bailey said. “We won the conference my sophomore year, but now we’re in a new conference. And I think Providence is always, always one of the top teams in the area of Charlotte.”
If Bailey and his offensive line can continue to put up awe-inspiring performances, there’s no telling where Providence will go.