Brophy running backs Rahnee Dennard and Nick Natale don’t have too many similarities when it comes to their football prowess.
Dennard, at 5-foot-10 and a cut 180 pounds, is more accustomed to a north-south style of running, never shying away from contact on a run up the middle. Natale, also 5-10 but 165 pounds, tends to use his breakaway speed to bounce to the outside and elude defenders.
Natale said his father played football during high school and sparingly in junior college while Dennard’s family tree is a who’s who of former college and NFL standouts.
But the Broncos’ dynamic backfield duo does have one thing in common.
Check that — more like 1,000 things in common.
As in the 1,000-yard rushing barrier, which Dennard and Natale each eclipsed this season as teammates, helping lead Brophy to a 12-1 record to date and a spot in Saturday’s 5A Division I state championship game.
“They’re two very good running backs who would start on 99 percent of the teams in this state,” Brophy coach Scooter Molander said.
Instead, Molander pencils both in as starters, not distinguishing a first choice among Dennard’s 1,344 yards and the 1,159 Natale has accumulated, even though the pair rarely takes the field at the same time.
“We just like to keep the legs fresh,” Natale said.
Entering the season, it was considered unlikely that anyone at Brophy would be able to match the efforts of former Bronco Markel DeVorce, the state’s leading rusher last season with 2,127 yards. But Natale, a junior, and Dennard, a senior, have joined forces to outgain DeVorce’s output, combining for 2,503 yards and 20 touchdowns between them.
“We had huge footsteps to fill with Markel (leaving), but the line has been what’s gotten us here,” said Dennard, whose second cousin on his mother’s side is NFL Hall of Fame running back Marcus Allen.
On his father’s side, Rahnee joins his uncles Preston and Glenn Dennard — Preston played spent eight seasons as an NFL wide receiver, Glenn was a standout flanker for Corona del Sol and Arizona State — and cousin B.J. Dennard, a sophomore wide receiver at Arizona, on the family’s football lineage chart.
Dennard said having multiple options in Brophy’s offensive system, which has racked up nearly 5,000 yards of total offense and 52 touchdowns, has helped him succeed as much as his natural ability.
“Our whole offense is able to do so many things,” he said.
“We have so many weapons,” Natale added, “but we’re not really a bunch of individuals.”