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Prep Focus: Gassman poses big threat out of backfield

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Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan's Cole Gassman carries the ball against Woonsocket/Wessington Springs/Sanborn-Central on Aug. 25 in Wessington Springs. (Marcus Traxler / Republic)2 / 2

Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan's Cole Gassman doesn't have prototypical running-back size, but instead uses speed and quickness to churn out yards.

"I think I am probably shorter than most running backs," the 5-foot-8, 175-pounder said. "But I think I am quick and good on my feet."

That quickness is what makes him a tough back to defend, said BEE football coach Jeff VanLeur.

"If our line does their job and gets him into the next level, he can do a lot of things with the football for us because of that speed and quickness," VanLeur said. "He just has really good vision."

VanLeur identified that vision early on.

"Coach just always wanted me to play running back and I love playing running back," Gassman said. "Anything for the team, I guess."

The senior has natural skills and the work ethic to go with it. Gassman and the rest of the Seahawks put in time during the offseason and did acceleration workouts in Mitchell during the summer.

"I worked out with all these guys all the time," Gassman said. "We worked out with each other and make each other better and we always pushed each other."

The work has translated onto the field. Last season, Gassman stepped into the feature back role for Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan. Gassman and the Seahawks haven't stopped running since.

"Last year, he kind of took over that role of being the go-to back for us and we always seem to have one of those for us," VanLeur said. "He just kind of got better and better and more confident."

Last season, Gassman was an Class 11B all-state running back. He rushed for 1,245 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns as a junior. He has rushed for 2,467 yards and 31 touchdowns in his career.

"Cole is always ready to play for us," VanLeur added. "He is 110 percent all the time. His engine is always running. The motor is always going and it's real contagious."

It's led to success in other sports. Gassman was also the starting point guard on the Bridgewater-Emery boys basketball team, which won the Class B state championship in March. He's also an outstanding baseball player and helped McCook/Miner baseball team reach the Class B state Legion tournament this summer.

"He is just a good all-around athlete that's made himself better, which of course makes the team better," VanLeur said.

The Class 11B No. 1 Seahawks have opened up the season with two convincing wins. Gassman rushed 124 yards and three touchdowns in a 40-0 season-opening win over Beresford. He followed that up with 232 rushing yards and four touchdowns in a 33-0 win over Woonsocket/Wessington Springs/Sanborn Central.

BEE faces a tough test Friday as it will play at Class 11A No. 1 Madison in a battle of two top-ranked teams.