A trio of highly decorated California high school backs, two whom rank 3-4 in the Pacific-12 Conference rushing race, square off in one of the nation's biggest showdowns on Thursday night when No. 2 Oregon visits No. 6 Stanford.
Stanford's Tyler Gaffney is No. 3 in the Pac-12 with 110.8 rushing yards per game, while Oregon's Byron Marshall is at 109.9.
Gaffney, a rugged 6-foot-1, 226-pound senior, finished off his prep career at Cathedral Catholic (San Diego)
by rushing 33 times for 329 yards and five touchdowns in a thrilling 37-34 victory over St. Mary's-Stockton at the Home Depot Center to claim the CIF State Bowl Division II championship
He scored the game-winning touchdown on a 51-yard run with 4:45 left.
"It was amazing. … it was perfect. … there was nothing more I could ask," he said of his grand finale.
The strong and fast 5-10, 207-pound Marshall was one of the San Francisco Bay Area's most ballyhooed athletes
from Valley Christian (San Jose)
, where he starred for four seasons.
He rushed for 3,366 yards and scored 56 touchdowns in his career and starred as a defensive back and returner as well. Now a sophomore at Oregon, he's taken over the reigns for another highly touted former California star De'Anthony Thomas, who injured his ankle on Sept. 28. Marshall rushed for at least 100 yards in five straight games and for 12 touchdowns.
With Thomas, touted as the top running back in the 2014 NFL draft if he comes out (he's a junior), deemed healthy, Marshall's carries may be limited. But he's been ready at every opportunity. Thomas starred at Crenshaw (Los Angeles)
and led his team to the CIF Open Division title game in 2009 before losing
to De La Salle-Concord.
Many believe an injury to Thomas in the De La Salle game might have cost Crenshaw the title. Crenshaw took a quick 14-0 lead on two Thomas runs before De La Salle stormed back with four unanswered touchdowns to win 28-14.