Meridian senior Junior Castro is a patient young man.
"I'm really in no rush," Castro said in a phone interview. "I like to let things happen naturally."
And because of that, he doesn't mind waiting.
Not for his chance to be the featured running back in the Trojans' offensive backfield last year.
And certainly not on a more-than-41/2-hour bus ride south to Battle Ground District Stadium he and his teammates will have to take on Saturday, Nov. 10, when they play No. 5 La Center in the first round of the Class 1A State Football Playoffs.
"I'll probably just catch up on some sleep," Castro said. "Then I'll go over over my offensive and defensive assignments and try to come up with the right mindset I need to be in when we get off the bus and take the field. ... I'll be with my teammates, and there isn't anywhere else I would rather be."
But it's not just Castro's mindset that is patient.
It also spills over to his running style.
"Junior is a patient galloper - I don't know if that makes any sense," Meridian coach Bob Ames said in a phone interview. "He's kind of Gale Sayers without the speed. He's got that patient, wait-for the-hole-to-open-up style."
That style has paid off well for Castro so far this year, as he's rushed for a team-high 619 yards and two touchdowns on 125 carries (5.0 average) as a senior.
"If not for my line, I wouldn't be able to do anything," Castro said. "I just try to read my blocks, and once I see open field, I go for it. ... If I force things to happen, I'll make errors. If I want to be successful and help my team be successful, I need to limit my errors, and the best way I know how to do it is to be patient."
That's not to say Castro doesn't know how to be aggressive - he just waits for his chance to force the issue.
"He's smart, he's quick, he's aggressive and he plays hard," Ames said. "If he didn't have any one of those characteristics, he wouldn't be the effective running back he is for us."
Castro's style is definitely a bit different from what the Trojans saw out of featured back Johnny Murphy last fall, when he rushed for 1,644 yards and 20 touchdowns.
"Johnny was a guy that would just take off and run," Ames said. "His style worked really well for us last year. And now Junior's style works really well for us this year. He's really stepped up this year."
Part of the reason for that, Ames said, is Castro isn't afraid to ask questions and "he wants to make sure he does everything right."
That is an approach the senior is trying to help spread to his teammates for Saturday's game, especially after last week's tri-district victory over Eatonville, when the Trojans turned the ball over four times and were flagged eight times for 55 yards.
"This week, we're just trying to get more focused than we were last week," Castro said. "Last week, too, we could have had more focus and intensity. Hopefully we'll bring that focus and intensity to the practice field this week and carry it over to the game."
Castro feels a lack of focus hurt Meridian last year when it went to the state playoffs and lost to Toledo, and he will play a big role in making sure his team brings the necessary focus and intensity every day this year.
Ames described the senior as a "big brother to pretty much everyone on the team," as he's stepped up as a leader this year.
"I'm just trying to remind everyone that we're not necessarily going to get this chance again next year, especially our seniors," Castro said. "I've been reminding them that we've got to practice with everything we've got to make this all worthwhile. We've got to make the most out of this year's opportunity. ... I just want to help us play the best we can and hopefully make some memories that will last a lifetime."
Reach David Rasbach at email@example.com or 360-715-2286.
STATE FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
FRIDAY, NOV. 9
CLASS 3A STATE PLAYOFFS
? First round: Ferndale at Bellevue, 7 p.m.
CLASS 1A STATE PLAYOFFS
? First round: Woodland at Mount Baker (at Civic Stadium), 7 p.m.
SATURDAY, NOV. 10
CLASS 2A STATE PLAYOFFS
? First round: Mark Morris at Lynden (at Civic Stadium), 5 p.m.
CLASS 1A STATE PLAYOFFS
? First round: Meridian at La Center (at Battle Ground District Stadium), 1 p.m.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2271.