Doug Severe marvels at the small quarterback whose tenacity has catapulted him to the top of the list, ahead of the great athletes in Beyer High football history.
How’s this for trivia: Who holds the school record for rushing yards in a game?
It’s not Jay Green, the former Patriot and and Modesto Junior College standout who now plays for Southern Utah. Green is a junior college All-American making his way quickly at the Division I level. Last weekend, he diced up the Oregon defense in his major college debut.
Green had four games of 200 or more yards in a record-setting high school career, but he isn’t the school’s single-game rushing king.
Neither is JR Ruiz, who clinched a Modesto Metro Conference title in 2011 with 280 yards and two touchdowns in a victory over Downey.
No, that crown belongs to Ben Polack, a diminutive three-sport athlete whose drive and versatility was rewarded last week.
The 5-foot-9, 140-pound senior rushed for a school record 303 yards in a 61-56 loss to Edison of Stockton, surpassing the mark set by Ruiz in 2011.
“He’s a competitor,” said coach Severe, also the school’s athletic director. “Physically, you might not think there’s a whole lot there, because he’s not a very big kid, but he’s got the heart of a lion. He believes in himself and his ability.”
Polack also threw for 168 yards, completing 12 of his 17 passes. He accounted for five touchdowns – three on the ground and two more through the air. He averaged 20 yards per rush, gashing the Viking defense for one big play after another.
“We need the ball in his hands. We think he’s a lot like (Nate) Phillips,” Severe said, likening Polack to the former Modesto quarterback who earned MMC and Lions All-Star MVP honors in 2014. “We want the ball in his hands, whether it’s passing or running.”
Like Phillips, Polack is a magician under center. With his speed and shiftiness, he is able to extend plays, making down-field threats like Brandon Gray, another multisport athlete, even more dangerous. Gray had eight receptions for 125 yards and a touchdown in the loss to Edison.
“He’s a phenomenal athlete,” Severe said of Polack. “He’s got a phenomenal energy inside of him that makes him compete at a very high level.”
Across seasons, too.
Polack is a foundational piece to the Patriots’ football, basketball and baseball programs, a rare three-sport star in an era of specialization.
In the winter, he is an all-conference point guard for one of the top public-school basketball programs in the southern half of the Sac-Joaquin Section. Beyer captured the MMC title last season and advanced to the Division II section final. Polack averaged 10.5 points and shot 45 percent from beyond the 3-point line.
His future is on the diamond, though.
In the days leading up to last week’s football game, Polack verbally committed to play baseball at San Jose State. He hit .320 with just one error in 23 games as a junior. He was also 2-0 with a save in a limited role as a pitcher.
“He’s a fierce competitor whether he’s on the mound, the basketball court of the football field,” Severe said.
For now, his focus is on correcting another slow start for the football program.
In 2015, Beyer lost four of its first five games, got hot during MMC play and carved out a three-way split of the title. Last fall, the Patriots lost their first two games of the season, but still finished 5-1 in league and clinched its second consecutive playoff berth.
At 1-2, Polack is a critical piece to Beyer’s championship plan.
Severe said the young quarterback must balance creativity with safety. Offensively, coordinator Aden Ruiz won’t shy from running Polack, but they need him to avoid the big hit. His health is paramount … to all three of the school’s major boys programs.
“Some of that was planned and some wasn’t planned,” Severe said of Polack’s 15 carries last week. “He’s got good vision, good speed and the heart of a giant, but he’s also got to know when to go down or when to go out of bounds. In his mind, he’s going to try to take you on, so he’s got to be better at that.”
Beyer has one more test before jumping into conference play. On Friday, the Patriots travel to Atwater (0-2). The Falcons have lost 12 consecutive games.