NILES, Ohio (WKBN) – Niles had one of the best running backs in the area last year in sophomore Antuan Gardner. He ran for over 1500 yards a season ago. Now, the Red Dragons welcome back Gardner for his junior year, with an experienced offensive line and a brand new quarterback that can spread the field for Niles.
“I think he has it all to be honest with you,” says head coach Jim Parry on Gardner.
There was no better sophomore rusher in the Valley last year. Gardner averaged over 170 yards per game last season, finishing with 18 touchdowns for the Red Dragons.
“Broke a school rushing record which was really cool for all of us,” Parry says.
“Our lineman take great pride in that. He is going to run behind a really good line and we are excited to see what happens.”
“Amazing, he is a leader with us,” senior lineman Nick Velez says. “A friend, and we know we can trust him with anything and we protect him anytime.”
Even though Gardner has had some early career success, he hasn’t been settling for one good year.
“Really worked on his quickness,” Parry says.
“I just thought needed to improve my speed a lot,” Gardner says. “And footwork, that can always get better. I just thought putting those two and two together is a deadly combination.”
And this year, Niles welcomes quarterback Anthony Budak to the program who moved back to the area from Olmsted Falls, adding an aerial threat to the Red Dragons.
“Last year, we were very one dimensional,” says Parry. “And this year, we feel like we have great skill on the outside and if Anthony knows where to put the ball then I think we will be very hard to stop.”
“He has brought a lot,” Gardner says. “Helping me a lot getting the ball out and making more space for me. You can only stop one, and we have both now.”