DAHLONEGA -- Lumpkin County football coach Tommy Jones will be the first to tell you that Indians senior Ian McIntosh possesses a unique talent.
But "unique" hardly does justice to McIntosh's most recent exploits.
Last Friday night the Indians' running back/receiver/wildcat quarterback put on a show for the history books, rushing nine times for 240 yards and three touchdowns. Included were three scoring runs of over 60 yards and an average of 27 yards per carry -- he also threw in three tackles and three pass break-ups on defense for good measure, as Lumpkin overturned an early deficit in a 28-13 victory over Union County.
"He's a gifted player -- the fastest guy we've had around here since I've been here, and he can make tacklers miss -- but I don't think you ever expect a night like that," Jones said. "It was a pleasant surprise to say the least."
For McIntosh it was simply a night when preparation met opportunity, as the speedster says he spent his entire offseason working on filling the playmaker role for Lumpkin County (2-0).
"We've got plenty of guys with talent, but I've worked hard all summer to try and become one of the go-to guys on this team," McIntosh said. "Being a senior I just want to go out and help this team win any way I can."
On Friday that meant using both his speed and vision to slash through the Union defense.
His first score came with the Indians trailing the Panthers 7-0, as McIntosh took a reverse, sprinted around the right side of the line -- juking two defenders in the process -- and exploded 65 yards to help tie the score 7-7.
"I had plenty of help," McIntosh said. "I was getting great blocks from my linemen, other backs and receivers downfield. It was a total team effort."
McIntosh's second TD came off a direct snap, as he lined up as a wildcat quarterback, found a crease off the left side of the line and sprinted 61 yards for a 21-10 Lumpkin advantage.
"That's part of our practice package every day," Jones said of the wildcat formation. "How much we use it depends on a number of factors, including how the other team is defending us. But it's a great option to have."
The senior capped a jaw-dropping performance on a simple hand-off up the middle, breaking off a 63-yard scoring run to give the Indians full control of the contest just before halftime at 28-10. (The Panthers added a field goal before halftime for what wound up the final score.)
"It was a great feeling Friday because we fought back from being down, and I think that showed a lot of people that Lumpkin County isn't going to go out without a fight against anybody this season," McIntosh said. "We'll be coming for everybody."
Coming off their first winning season since 2003, the Indians (who went 6-4 in 2010) knew they entered the 2011 campaign with a number of questions to answer after graduating several key players. Yet Lumpkin's hardfought '10 campaign served to prepare its rising seniors, who wanted to build on that success.
"We knew this group of seniors -- all 12 of us -- had to step up," McIntosh said. "We've developed a real close-knit group here. Everybody's looking out for everybody. We've also got that next-play mentality where we don't dwell on what just happened but think about what's coming next."
Surely McIntosh could have been forgiven for living in the moment a little bit on Friday, but he says his focus shifted quickly, and he's currently thinking ahead to Sept. 16 when Lumpkin -- coming off a bye this week -- will take on Monroe Area.
"That game will be a huge challenge," McIntosh said. "But we've got to play Lumpkin County football. We won't back down. We know we can't take any steps back this season; we've got to keep moving forward."
You can certainly expect McIntosh to play a key role in some fashion, as the Indians look to move to 3-0.
"He's very confident and very talented, but I think I've been even more encouraged by the leadership he's shown with some of our other players this season," Jones said of a player who has college offers from Wofford and UNC-Charlotte. "We challenged him this offseason and asked him to step up, and he's done that so far."