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Coach: 'Can't teach what Earl can do'

Friday, Aug. 27, 1999

Enquirer contributor

       The first time Tom Grippa spotted Earl Haynes two years ago during a freshman team practice, the then first-year Fairfield football coach predicted a bright future for the running back.

       ''Earl's the best back I've coached,'' said Grippa, who previously coached at Elder. ''You can't teach what Earl can do.''

       A 5-foot-9, 160-pound junior, Haynes was one of the leading rushers in the Greater Miami Conference as a sophomore, carrying the ball 294 times for 1,526 yards and 13 touchdowns.

       ''What makes Earl so good is great vision,'' Grippa said. ''He also has excellent athletic ability, is very quick and has the ability to cut at full speed.''

       Many questioned Grippa's decision to give the ball to Haynes nearly 30 times a game, fearing the speedster could suffer a career ending injury.

       ''Earl has great endurance and never seems to get tired,''Grippa said. ''As the game goes on, he gets better and better.''

       Grippa's best known as a coach who prefers putting the ball in the air and the fact Haynes' number was called nearly 300 times, is a testament to his ability.

       ''We want to be a running team,'' Grippa said. ''But this doesn't depend on Earl but on the rest of the team. If we get into a lead at halftime, we'll keep the ball on the ground in the second half but if we're behind, we'll have to throw.''

       With four veteran offensive lineman back, along with blocking fullback Matt Traxler, the Indians should control at the line of scrimmage.

       Todd Bridge, a 6-foot-5, 190-pound senior, has won the starting quarterback position and has been very accurate throwing the ball during the preseason.

       ''Earl is a team player and will do what is best for the team,'' Grippa said. ''Our goal is to pass for 150 yards and rush for 150. That would be the ideal situation.''

       Because of Haynes' size, Grippa isn't sure if playing for a major college is in the future.

       ''He has the speed to play at the college level,'' Grippa said. ''He will continue to be a terrific high school player but the only question is size.''

       The biggest key to Fairfield's success will be the passing game.

       If Bridge is on target, the passing game will open up the running attack. This will make it easier for Haynes to pickup more yards on less carries.