His recent assault on the end zone started two weeks ago in Middletown, R.I., with a 3-yard blast against the St. George’s School.
It was the first of five rushing touchdowns for Groton School senior Caleb Coleman in a 42-20 Independent School League victory.
Then last Friday night, the sturdy 6-foot-2, 207-pound Coleman ripped through the Rivers School D for scoring runs of 85, 19, 37, 57, 10, 53, and 18 yards — yes, 7 touchdowns — in a 55-30 win.
“I have been coaching for 40 years and [Coleman] is the best I have seen,” said Groton coach Jamie Lamoreaux.
But to focus strictly on the gaudy offensive numbers, and his 16 touchdowns in Groton’s 4-1 start in the ISL10, is a disservice to his versatility, and to the overall talent of the 18-year-old Wellesley resident who is headed to Princeton next fall.
“His combination of strength, speed and athleticism is tough to beat.,” said St. George’s coach John Mackay.
“I actually think he’s a better defensive player. It will be interesting to follow him at Princeton. Our league has had so many outstanding players over the years,” including Middlesex School grad Pat Freiermuth playing tight end at Penn State now.”
Ask one question about his performances the past two weeks, and his coaches gush about his commitment to the game, his leadership skills, and his work ethic.
In early October, with Groton trailing Middlesex by 3 points with eight seconds remaining, Groton put the ball in Coleman’s hands to attempt a 40-yard Hail Mary.
Coleman dropped back, saw the safety lag off junior receiver Anthony Romano, heaved a pass downfield in perfect position for Romano to jump, and make the winning catch in a 38-34 win.
“He can throw the ball,” said Lamoreaux. “What I said was, ‘Who was your Pop Warner coach ‘cause someone missed it.’ . . . He probably has the best arm on the team.”
It was in Wellesley Youth Football, playing linebacker as a third grader, where Coleman developed his passion for the game.
Coleman attended The Park School in Brookline for elementary and middle education, but planned to attend Wellesley High.
It made sense.
His youth football experience playing for Wellesley familiarized him with the high school coaches and he could avoid writing the required essays in the long private school application process. However, his parents, who both worked in education, urged him to apply to private schools.
Reluctantly, Coleman did. He only applied to boarding schools, thinking he would enjoy living away from home after witnessing what life was like for students at Dana Hall School in Wellesley, where his mother, Nadine, worked as a residential director. In addition, Coleman was no longer an only child.
“I have a little sister. She is 10, Addie,” Coleman said with a smile.
“My parents were definitely giving her a little more attention, so I was a little jealous. I was really independent, doing my own laundry, making my own food because they were always looking after her. When the time came to be independent at boarding school, it wasn’t much different.”
Groton accepted Coleman. He felt it was the perfect fit because he was young for his current grade and Groton allowed Coleman to repeat eighth grade.
As an eighth grader, Coleman was thrust into varsity action after an injury sidelined the Zebras’ starting middle linebacker. Soon the idea of playing college football entered Coleman’s mind, but Groton was known for academics, not football, which usually meant there were only opportunities to play at the Division 3 level.
“At the end of my sophomore year, going into my junior year — that is really the year you get recruited for football. I will never forget some of my older mentors that graduated from here were like, ‘You have to transfer schools. I don’t think you can get recruited out of Groton,’” Coleman recalled.
“I’m Groton 100 percent. I wasn’t going to leave for football.”
Coleman’s sophomore season had been a disappointment, largely because he played the entire year with a torn MCL and meniscus in his left knee. But after scoring 13 touchdowns in a fully healthy junior season, the offers started rolling in from Harvard, Yale and Princeton.
Ultimately, Coleman verbally committed to Tigers before the school year.
“My thing with Caleb is that some people portray themselves as a quarterback, or a running back, but he is a football player,” said Groton assistant coach John Margarita.
“He long snaps, he’s played inside linebacker, outside linebacker, he’s been in coverage, he’s been a wildcat quarterback, and he’s thrown passes. He does it all.”
The next challenge? Groton has a stiff test Friday afternoon in Braintree against host Thayer Academy.