El Camino interim football coach Mark Turner had a begrudging smile on his face and a related anecdote in mind when recalling the play that knocked out Colts running back Charles Truong last year with a broken collarbone.
"I first noticed Chuck as a freshman who was just this little guy trying to run over everybody," said Turner, who has led the team this season in place of Eric Jacobsen due to the coach’s medical issues. "When he broke his collarbone last year against Menlo [on Oct. 6], he was trying to do the same thing. He’s always had so much heart, but he also had a lot of athleticism that he didn’t take advantage of. He was looking to get the extra 2 yards on every play, but I was trying to get him to go for the extra 50."
At Turner’s behest, the 5-foot-9, 165-pound senior running back has invoked a style this year that’s more Gale Sayers, less Earl Campbell, and the results have been telling. Truong has piled up 1,055 rushing yards and scored 14 touchdowns this season to lead his team to a 6-2 record.
"I really worked a lot this summer on improving my vision," said Truong, who is looking into playing football next season at area junior colleges, including the College of San Mateo and West Valley College. "When we ran 7-on-7 drills, I tried to see what my linemen we’re doing and how the linebackers were reacting so I could find lanes and get some easy yards."
With a 6-0 start in Peninsula Athletic League Ocean Division play, the Colts have already clinched the school’s first outright league title since 1970. El Camino will look to keep its undefeated league record alive today, when the Colts travel to San Mateo to take on Hillsdale at 2:45 p.m.
Truong is one of 13 seniors on the El Camino roster that played significant roles on the 2006 team that finished the season with seven straight losses. Unlike the rest of his teammates, Truong could do little but watch last year as his team’s fortunes dimmed with each loss.
"It sucked being on the sideline, not able to help my teammates at all," said Truong, whose brother John is the Colts’ starting cornerback. "That was my first year on varsity and I felt like I was just starting to get used to the level of play when I got hurt. This year, I wanted to make up for lost time."
With that added sense of urgency, Truong has been, in the words of Turner, "the team’s heart and soul" this season, rushing for at least 100 yards in all but one of the Colts’ Ocean Division games.
Along with senior quarterback Gerald Maranan and senior wide receiver Antoine Turner, Truong has helped the Colts rebound from a tough 0-2 start this year that included a heartbreaking 28-26 loss to Washington in the season’s second game.
It was the Colts’ ninth straight loss dating back to last season. Thanks to the efforts of Truong they haven’t lost since.
"Last year, we started 3-0 and thought we didn’t have to work hard anymore," Truong said. "This year, we knew how quickly things could change. After the Washington loss, we realized that as seniors this was our last chance to make something happen. We didn’t want to end our careers on a losing note."