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Can Dashawn Meadors lead Hempstead back to top of Nassau I?

Dashawn Meadors, Hempstead running back, poses for a

Dashawn Meadors, Hempstead running back, poses for a portrait during practice at Hempstead on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2017. Credit: James Escher

About the only thing that can slow down Hempstead tailback Dashawn Meadors is the high, thick grass on his team’s home field. It will be cut in time for the home opener next Saturday against Long Beach, but given the 6-3, 225-pound senior’s explosiveness, teams that don’t have turf might just consider giving their landscapers the week off when the Tigers come to town.

“Sometimes we draw it up one way but he finds an opening and takes it another way,” coach Sylas Pratt said. “He’s hard to tackle, hard to deal with. I’m a defensive-minded coach and even if he was the best guy on offense, I’d want him on defense. But now, every time I see him carry the ball, it’s not a fluke what he’s doing.”

What Meadors did in his breakout junior season was rush for 1,384 yards, averaging 16 yards per carry, score 19 touchdowns plus make 96 tackles from his middle linebacker position, including 11 sacks. Hempstead finished 4-4 for a second straight season, just missing the playoffs once again. Though it’s a big improvement from Meadors’ freshman season when the Tigers were 0-8 a year before Pratt took over, Meadors is not satisfied. Especially since Hempstead lost a couple of heartbreakers last year that cost them a postseason berth.

“It would be a big achievement to get Hempstead into the playoffs again. That would be great for our school and our community,” said Meadors. “It’s been nine years. But this is a new year. The rebuilding process is over and we want to keep moving forward.”

The same can be said for Meadors, who has gone from relative obscurity to the radar screens of several Division I colleges. He said he has scholarship offers from Temple, Rutgers and Stony Brook but expects others and won’t decide until after the season. “I don’t want to go too far away. I want to be as close to home as possible so my family can see my games,” said Meadors. “We’re very close and all the boys in my family have played football, from my grandfather to my youngest brother.”

Meadors may occupy his own branch on the family tree. He showcased his defensive and offensive skills at Temple’s summer camp and with an 85 average and sufficient SAT scores to qualify for Division I football according to Pratt, the only question is whether the 16-year-old winds up on offense or defense in college.

“I really want to play offense, but wherever the coaches put me, it doesn’t matter. As long as I play,” Meadors said. “Colleges seem to be looking at me as a defensive end/outside linebacker to use my quickness to get to the person who has the ball.”

That’s what Pratt envisions as well. “He’s a linebacker now but he’s still growing. I project that in college he’ll have his hand in the dirt,” Pratt said, referencing the stance of a defensive end. “That’s a great athlete on the defensive line. I imagine him growing another two-to-three inches and becoming a big-time edge rusher. But a couple of schools said they like him as a tailback so it could go either way.”

His versatility and athleticism offer a tantalizing offensive package to college coaches. “I think of myself as a balanced back,” Meadors said. “If I get to the open field, I’ll use my speed. When I’m inside, I’ll use my strength and power.

“But it’s not just me,” he was quick to point out. “We have other weapons, like Javon Andrews and Tylique Walker. We can spread defenses out and get everybody the ball. Defenses can’t just focus on me.”

That team-first attitude delights his coach. “That’s the best thing about him. He doesn’t act like a star. He’s the same kid he was as a 10thgrader,” Pratt said. “He’s just a little bit bigger, a little bit stronger and a little bit faster. He’s consistent. Every day he’s the first one in the locker room and the first one in the weight room. And his teachers say he’s a pleasure to have in class. Success hasn’t gone to his head. He’s hungry. He wants more.”

Including a nice, fast track.

The Dashawn Meadors file

His 2016 numbers

86 Carries

1,384 Yards

16.1 Avg.

19 TD

11 Sacks

96 Tackles

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