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THE GRIND: Forsyth Central's Diebel making up for lost time
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After missing all of last season, Forsyth Central junior running back Shaun Diebel has made up for lost time with 704 yards and eight touchdowns through five games. - photo by Micah Green

Physicists have a term—potential energy—that refers to, say, a bow-and-arrow, where the arrow waits on a drawn string, taken out of its natural position, to spring forward, back to where it belongs.

Forsyth Central running back Shaun Diebel, forced to sit out last season, bid his time out of his element, running track for the Bulldogs, waiting to return to his favorite sport.

And so it was that on Aug. 29, in Central’s season opener against Dawson County, Diebel sprang loose for 189 yards and three touchdowns, and 151 more in a Sept. 5 win over Woodland-Cartersville.

"I like to be aggressive," Diebel said, watching from the sideline as Central defensive backs practiced in a drizzle on Monday. "I like to hit somebody and have them thinking that they don’t want to hit me again. When I hit the hole, it’s full speed every time and I don’t slow down until the whistle blows."

Diebel is no savior—he did not play for the 2-8 Bulldogs last year—but his strong running out of the Wishbone is a big reason for Central’s ascent to playoff contention. The junior is second in Forsyth County with 704 yards rushing and eight touchdowns through five games as Central started 3-2.

Central coach Shane Williamson admitted before this season that he struggled to adjust to his new surroundings and new players last year. That changed over the summer, when the Bulldogs attended a Christian football camp and grew closer.

"Upperclassmen and younger kids didn’t get along as well before, but now when we come out here, we’re more of a family," Diebel said. "When somebody falls down now, people rush to help them up."

Williamson noticed the speedy Diebel preparing for Central’s track season last winter and asked him to join the football team. It was a no-brainer for Diebel, who played football in eighth grade and his freshman year, to return to the gridiron.

In January workouts and spring practice, the undersized Bulldogs used a power-lifting regimen that Williamson brought to bulk up for the rigors of Class AAAAA football. Diebel improved his squat from 225 pounds to more than 400 pounds.

"In spring practice, we looked like we were still playing for ourselves," Diebel said. "This summer, though, we started to love each other … Coach Williamson turned us in to a team."

Diebel leads Forsyth County with 114 rushing attempts (22.8 per game); even when he’s not toting the ball, he’s blocking for Sabrian Howard. In other words, Diebel, who described his running style as ‘goofy’ with long strides, needed all the extra muscle.

"I love the contact the most," Diebel said. "It’s a great way to get anger out; even if you had a bad day at school, you can come down here and lay some wood."

Diebel said he wants to reach 1,000 yards this season. He needs just 296 yards in the Bulldogs’ final five games (59.2 per game) to reach that milestone. At this rate, Diebel is on pace for—usually an exercise in futility—more than 1,400 yards.

North Atlanta (1-5, including a 55-0 loss to Riverwood) visits Central this Friday as the Bulldogs look to move back above .500 in Region 7-AAAAA, Div. B.

Diebel knows better than to laugh off an opponent like the Warriors.

After all, Central was one of those teams chalked up as a win before toe even met leather just last season.

"We can’t take anybody lightly at this point," Diebel said, turning serious. "I mean, teams would kind of laugh before they played us in the past. We’ve been there."