By Anthony Mitchell
For The Daily Item
When David Brantley has the ball, it is best not to blink or you may miss something.
The East Juniata senior has been a major offensive catalyst for the Tigers over the past two seasons and is one of the reasons that East Juniata sits at 2-1. Brantley has unofficially rushed for 376 yards this season along with three scores on the ground.
However, behind the quarterback has not been the only spot opposing defenses have tried to contain Brantley this season.
Tigers head coach Simon Cameron has stashed Brantley as a wide receiver or in the shotgun as a quarterback to take advantage of his versatility and speed.
His versatility has caused opposing defenses fits this season as he has had equal success regardless of his position on the field, diving for catches as a receiver or showing his ability to lead an offense as the quarterback.
Brantley displayed his multi-faceted game last week against Pine Grove, turning a sure loss of yardage into a 60-yard touchdown sprint down the sideline.
“During that run, I was initially trying to get as many positive yards as I could,” Brantley said. “Each time I saw a defender, I tried to do a move that would get me closer to the line of scrimmage. My biggest goal for (the play) was to stay in bounds. As soon as I broke through (the defense), I saw I was in the clear and I thought, ‘Just don’t let anyone catch you from behind.’ ”
Brantley said that he gets his home-run hitting style of running from former California Golden Bears and Detroit Lions running back Jahvid Best.
“I try to mimic his running style, his moves and the way he runs the ball,” Brantley said. “That’s the way I try to run.”
It is clear to see the influence that Best had on Brantley when Brantley finds open running room and keeps his speed until he crosses the end zone.
The scary aspect of Brantley’s ability on the gridiron is that football may be his second-best sport.
Brantley also runs track for East Juniata and finished ninth last season at the PIAA Class AA state meet in the hurdles.
“The feeling that I got after (finishing ninth) was that it was one of the biggest accomplishments I had done in my athletic career,” Brantley said. “My biggest goal in my junior year was to make it to states in the hurdles.”
Brantley finished one place off of the medal stand which will serve as his motivation for the upcoming track season.
“(Finishing ninth) made me want to work harder and improve for next year,” he said.
Brantley’s success on the track has translated to the gridiron, making him one of the Valley’s most electric players once he gets the ball in his hands.
Cameron described Brantley as one of two players, along with wide receiver Kevin Allen, that he feels have the ability to score any time they touch the football.
“We just have to make sure we keep (Brantley) level-headed and focused,” Cameron said. “There’s a lot of stuff we can use him for. He’s a very good team player.”
Staying grounded should not be a problem for Brantley, who was quick to credit his offensive line for the team’s success this season.
“The line is the base of the team,” Brantley said. “If they’re on one page, we’re doing well.”
Brantley’s success on the track has attracted the attention of college track coaches, which Brantley said he will pursue at the next level.
While he will focus his athletic attention to the track in college, Brantley did not rule out the possibility off crossing the track lines and rejoining the gridiron if he attends a school that offers football.
Regardless of the sport on which Brantley chooses to focus, it is clear that he has the support of his football coach for the next level.
“He’d make an outstanding cornerback or wide receiver,” Cameron said. “He has the mental capacity for it. I would recommend him highly to any coach that came.”
Cameron added that Brantley has the work ethic to succeed at the next level and the ability to balance the demands of class work and playing a collegiate sport.
Brantley already has had to balance a class schedule with the practice schedule of playing a sport during every sports season, playing basketball for East Juniata, in addition to football and track.
“(Playing three sports) keeps me busy,” Brantley said. “There’s not really a time where I don’t have practice or a game night.”
Brantley started playing high school basketball during his sophomore year but wrestling was his first love in terms of winter sports.
Brantley wrestled until his ninth-grade year before stopping. Brantley said that wrestling had been a sport in which he had been involved his entire time and he was simply ready for a change.
It is difficult to fault Brantley for making the switch, as in two years, Brantley has turned himself into a regular in the rotation on the hardwood, playing every game last season for a team which finished 19-6.
Whether Brantley is fighting for that last yard or sprinting toward the final hurdle, if you are in the stands, you may want to keep your eyes open.