Nathan O’Mara walked with a noticeable limp as he made his way through the varsity locker room underneath Bulleit Stadium following a thrilling, and record-setting, 31-29 victory against Jeffersonville on Friday night.
Forty-one carries does that to a running back.
At 5-foot-8 and 180-pound, O’Mara is stout and runs low to ground, which helps when he takes the inevitable beating that running backs take.
Still, 41 carries.
O’Mara’s effort easily pushed him to the top of Seymour’s record book for single-game rush attempts, surpassing the previous mark of 32 (by Matt Egloff against Columbus North in 1989).
O’Mara also set the single-game rushing yardage record by running for 345 yards, bettering Anthony Desender’s 306 yards against Bedford North Lawrence in 2005.
Perhaps just to be efficient, he broke both records on the same carry, a seven-yard run with 11:32 left in the fourth quarter.
“It’s crazy,” O’Mara said. “I had the sense that I was getting a lot of carries, but not 41. I can’t thank the linemen enough. They were pushing hard tonight. They made me look good.”
Tackles Haden Mettert and Adam Carter, center Jake Roberts, guards Corey Motosicky, Cameron Barr, Caleb Madden and Clayton Prater, and tight ends Jack Roberts and Conner Klakamp paved the way through Jeffersonville’s defense for O’Mara.
How well did the line play? None of O’Mara’s carries resulted in negative yards. Only two of his attempts were stopped for no gain.
On the other hand, O’Mara had 12 rushes of greater than 10 yards, including runs of 38, 39 and 44 yards. He ended the game with two touchdowns, accounted for 17 of Seymour’s 25 first downs, and generated 345 of the team’s 500 total yards.
“He’s a workhorse,” Seymour head coach Mike Kelly said after Friday’s game. “He works his tail off. He’s a leader on and off the field. He gives us great effort every day.”
A week earlier, during Seymour’s first game against South Dearborn (a 7-0 win), O’Mara carried the ball 30 times for 158 yards. In other words, he has run for 503 yards on 71 attempts in two games, an average of 251.5 yards on 35.5 carries.
Is that kind of workload sustainable?
“That was the expectation coming in,” O’Mara said. “(Assistant) coach (Brian) Balsmeyer said I’ve got to put the team on my back and carry the ball 40 times per game. But I didn’t think it would be that much. It depends on the way the game is going.”
Seymour showed against Jeffersonville that it has other offensive options. Quarterback Brendan Smith is a capable runner (he ran for 49 yards and two touchdowns on Friday) and has the ability to throw effectively to a collection of receivers who displayed a willingness to make plays on the ball.
Tight ends Roberts and Klakamp, and receivers Drew Schroeder and Cameron James caught a combined six passes for 109 yards. Each made a tough catch that hinted at a potentially productive passing game.
“We’ll keep pushing it,” O’Mara said. “We might start throwing the ball more.”
O’Mara became a full-time running back last season as a junior. In the fourth game of the season, against Floyd Central, his collarbone was broken when he was driven into the turf on a tackle.
In the South Dearborn game this season, a hit to his hands caused swelling and forced him into ice treatments throughout the week.
Such is the life of a featured back.
At the moment, O’Mara wouldn’t trade it for the world.
“It feels amazing,” he said. “I’ve worked so hard for this (after last season’s injury). I knew I had to get after it, to get back to where I was.”
Add in the fact that the Owls are undefeated through two games so far this season, their first 2-0 start since 2001.
“It feels like the unity is there, that we’re coming together,” O’Mara said. “There’s huge excitement. It gives us momentum and confidence. We proved ourselves tonight.”