Delk, Penix and Dunn all have winning aspirations

August 11, 2003|MIKE MARSEE

A truly good running back is hard to find. And harder to catch.

As another high school season approaches, there are three senior backs who look as if they will be particularly hard to run down this fall.

A look at their past performances makes it hard to separate any one of them from the other two, but it's fairly easy to separate the three of them from the rest of the senior field.

Running back No. 1 is the returning champion, Rex Delk of Casey County, a relatively unknown yet increasingly dangerous runner who rose to prominence along with his team last season. He would someday like to make movies but for now hopes to make one more memorable season.


Running back No. 2 is Charles Penix of Danville, an emerging star who has increased both his size and speed as he tries to carve out a spot among the best backs in the state.

Running back No. 3 is Mark Dunn of Harrodsburg, who comes off the shortest season of his career, which also made it the longest. Injuries limited him to appearances in only two games last season, and he says he feels the need to make up for lost time.

It's impossible to say which of these runners will be the area's best senior back by season's end, or whether they will be overtaken by someone else. But as the season approaches, it's clear that these three are the area's lead senior runners.


It's not that Delk hasn't done anything yet. After all, he was the area's regular-season rushing leader last season with 1,342 yards and 13 touchdowns.

His offensive contributions helped Casey make the playoffs for just the second time in school history, but he remains modest when it comes to his role in the Rebels' success.

"We just had a good team and a good line," Delk said.

Modesty aside, Delk has made great strides in just about every area of the game in his two years with Casey. He played in middle school but sat out his freshman year - Casey's first playoff season - before coach Andy Stephens and other players talked him into coming out for the team.

Still, he isn't sure he belongs on a list of the area's best backs.

"Here's Mark Dunn and Charles Penix, and they're going to go D-I (Division I), and here's Rex Delk, going D-8, way down there," he said.

No matter where Delk's future takes him, he's looking forward to it.

"I'm really looking forward to going on," he said. "If I don't play in college, I want to go on to make movies."

Delk said he leans toward comedies - the late Chris Farley was his favorite comedian - and also likes action movies with the likes of Tom Cruise and Mel Gibson.

But for at least one more season, Delk will be the star of the show.


One look at Penix is enough to tell you he could be on the verge of a big season. Which is just what he's been working toward.

"I've got to let everybody know I'm capable of doing whatever any back in the state is capable of doing," he said.

For starters, the Danville back is noticeably bigger than he was a year ago, and he might be faster as well. He can still run a 4.5 in the 40-yard dash, but he now weighs 210 pounds, about 15 pounds more than a year ago.

"I feel like that's going to make a big difference," Penix said. "I've got quick feet, and I'm in shape where I ran over the summer."

Penix also did plenty of running this spring during the track and field season, when he helped two Danville relay teams finish third in the state. "I believe I picked up a lot of speed," he said. "Football speed and track speed are two different things ... but (former Danville track) coach (E.G.) Plummer told me track would help me a lot."

Penix, who ran for 1,123 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2002, will share carries with junior Kelvin Turner, last year's leading rusher, who returned to the team nine days ago after considering a transfer.

But Penix will also assume a leadership role for the Admirals, which is one he relishes.

"The main thing I want to accomplish is making it to state and showing people I'm capable of pulling the team together, that I'm capable of being a leader on a team like Danville with a good tradition," he said. "I really believe I've still got a lot to prove."


You only get four seasons' worth of Friday nights. Mark Dunn lost one of those seasons and won't ever get it back, but he'll be doing his best this fall to make one season seem like two.

"This is my last year, and I'm playing two seasons," Dunn said. "I'm trying to get my junior year back."

First a bad knee, then a bad shoulder made for a bad fall for Dunn, but he said he's feeling good now. And he's having to say that a lot lately, though he is nine months removed from surgery to repair his rotator cuff.

"It's starting up. People are starting to ask because the season's right around the corner," he said.

Dunn certainly isn't hurting as much as he was last fall when, after rushing for 2,234 yards as a sophomore, he totaled only 141 yards in two games on the field - "And I don't count the second one, because that wasn't me" - and eight on the sideline as Harrodsburg struggled to a 3-7 record.

"I was mad at the doctors because they wouldn't let me play," he said. "But every game I was out there trying to help the team with things I'm seeing."

Dunn has one more chance to make it right, both for himself and for Harrodsburg. He is again expected to be a workhorse in the backfield, and he's also running pass routes in new coach Terry Yeast's offense.

"I just want to win," he said. "Harrodsburg's had its ups and downs, and I just want to go out with a winning record."

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