LONGMONT — Assistant coach Eric Coyle likes to say Longmont tailback Conlan Berger is like a ghost, disappearing into the hole and reemerging with the ball.
It's true, Berger isn't afraid to go charging into any gap provided by his offensive line, and he usually comes charging back out the other end. So that's a pretty fair assessment from Coyle, a man whose experience as an NFL center makes him somewhat an authority on the subject.
"It's just my running style," Berger said. "I love to watch college football and the NFL and learn whatever little things that I can. I just try to hit the hole as hard as I can every play. After that, anything can happen. I could break a tackle and get a big run.
"I just feel like as long as I'm going as hard as I can on every play, I'm doing my job."
The Trojans' senior lead back and his hard-nosed running style are a major reasons Longmont is back in the 4A state semifinals for the second straight year and will face Windsor on Saturday. In the first round of this year's state tournament, Berger scored six touchdowns against Pueblo South. Against Denver South in the quarterfinals, he put up 94 yards and two rushing scores on just 12 carries and also caught a 38-yard touchdown pass.
Berger leads the Trojans with 1,242 rushing yards and 27 total touchdowns in 11 games. But Longmont's strength is that it isn't a one-man show with Berger carrying the ball on a jet sweep over and over.
The Trojans' rushing attack works as a unit and also features seniors Ethan Gabrielle (662 yards), Eli Sullivan (519 yards) and quarterback David Speidel (430 yards). Gabrielle, Sullivan and Speidel have each scored seven rushing touchdowns this season. Even senior linebacker Logan Goodner (208) comes in on offense for a different look a few times each game.
"All our backs just have that mentality of, 'We're coming and you better be ready,'" Berger said. "Our offensive line is unbelievable, we like blocking for each other and we all have a knack for making plays. As a team, I definitely feel like we have a chip on our shoulder after losing to Pine Creek last year. We have that edge and our focus has been insane lately so there's a different feel to this year."
Despite a 1-3 start to last season, the Trojans caught fire and reached the 4A state championship game. They lost badly to Pine Creek, which left them hungry for revenge and has helped spur a 12-0 undefeated campaign in 2015. Head coach Doug Johnson said one of the biggest components in the Trojans' season is everyone, including Conlan, doing their part.
"We ask our guys to take roles," Johnson said. "His sometimes is in the spotlight and that's a credit to him. It's also a credit to guys like Eli Sullivan (1,378 total yards, 10 touchdowns in 2013), who we've asked to step over and play defense which has lessened his touches on offense. All our guys do what's best for the team. For Conlan that means being our lead back and doing a lot of the hard work."
Berger has received an offer from Colorado School of Mines and is getting looks from other schools, according to Johnson.