LIMA — At the heart of Lima Senior’s impressive 2013 turnaround was an explosive spread offense.
And at the heart of that offense was a 5-foot-7, 170-pound dynamite stick named Juniel Liles.
The junior tailback sprinted onto the northwest Ohio landscape in a big way this past season, helping the Spartans finish 5-5 overall, and a whisper away from a playoff berth.
For his dynamic 2013 season, Liles has been named the Lima News’ Dream Team offensive player of the year.
Kenton wide receiver Justin Sawmiller was also a strong consideration.
“Going from a triple-option (in 2012) it was kind of tough to wrap our minds around the new offense,” Liles said about the offensive system first-year coach Mike Fell installed. “But it definitely was a lot more fun, putting more points on the board. I couldn’t ask for a better team, a better coach to play for. It just made it all easier.”
Within Fell’s wide-open offense, Liles flourished as the Spartan’s lone back. He ran for 1,478 yards on 227 carries with 18 touchdowns to lead the Three Rivers Athletic Conference in rushing. He also caught 18 passes for 204 yards and three more scores.
Liles was named first team all-TRAC and first team all-district for his efforts.
“Juniel Liles is one of those running backs who’s tough to bring down because he has a low center of gravity, he’s quick and he runs extremely hard,” Fell said. “He really explodes into a defensive guy. As a defense player, you have to get really low, so he breaks a lot of tackles.”
Juniel’s long-time friend and teammate Demontay Liles, a sophomore wide receiver/cornerback, said he enjoyed having a front row seat.
“Seeing him break a lot of tackles, running for 200-some yards was just amazing,” Demontay said. “I’ve been playing with him since midget league, he’s been my best football friend and watching him play and grow as a great running back has been … just amazing.”
Liles strung together plenty of amazing performances. In a win over Oregon Clay to put Lima Senior’s record at 5-3, he ran for 223 yards on 29 carries with five TDs. In a Week 3 win over Piqua, he had 255 yards on 39 carries with three touchdowns.
“We got into that third game of the year, he had an outstanding game,” Fell said. “Then they really started keying on him after that, and he was still able to get at least 100 yards in pretty much every game except the last one. That says something, when you’ve got one guy running the ball and you’ve got a couple linebackers keying on you the whole time that says something about you.
“What I like about Juniel is his No. 1 desire is to win. He’s mad when we’re not winning and couldn’t care less about stats and other things. If we’re winning the game, he’s perfectly happy. And that’s what you look for in one of the leaders of the team.”
Juniel said he had a few highlights from the season. One, was the win over Findlay, in which he was on the scoring end of an 86-yard hook-and-ladder play that is the longest touchdown pass in Lima Senior history.
The other highlight was more of a daily thing.
“Pretty much every day, being with my teammates and winning games,” Juniel said. “There were definitely a lot of good moments and fun times. Being with our seniors was definitely a fun ride.”
Juniel is preparing for basketball season at the moment and will either play baseball or track in the spring. Then, he turns his sights back to football and continuing the improvements.
“We were expecting to get to the playoffs this year, kinda hurt that we didn’t,” Juniel said. “But we’ve got another year. We put a lot of expectations on ourselves, going 5-5 got us fired up but now we’re wanting to work harder.”