So when defenses line up against Grafton, Rios — a 6-foot-1, 225-pound junior speedster — garners a lot of attention.
But the reason the Spoilers have jumped out to a 4-1 start in 2020 and are one win from matching their 2019 win total is a newly developed passing attack.
Grafton has thrown for nearly 500 yards and nine touchdowns through the first five weeks of the season. The leading passer has been senior Landon Woinarowicz, who’s 18-for-45 for 353 yards and eight touchdowns.
Woinarowicz, who only threw for 76 yards last season, took over the exclusive passing duties when junior Robert Parsons III suffered an injury in Week 3 against Carrington. Parsons, who had 260 yards passing in 2019, threw for 135 yards and two touchdowns against Carrington.
“Landon has gotten more comfortable throwing the ball, and the offensive line is giving him more time to be comfortable inside the pocket,” said Grafton tight end Stevan Garza, who has eight catches for 133 yards and two touchdowns. “We have a pretty good run game because Rios is really good and so is Damon Reyes. But the offense is more balanced now because we’re all more experienced.”
The improved passing attack has helped keep Rios, a standout linebacker, fresh. He has 63 carries for 707 yards (11.2 yards per carry) and 10 touchdowns.
The Spoilers, whose only loss is to No. 2 Hillsboro-Central Valley, play Harvey-Wells County on Friday night in Grafton.
“The development of our passing game has really brought us to the next level,” Spoilers coach David Muhonen said. “Having that competition (with Parsons) helped Landon out as a passer. When Parsons was hurt, we worried we might revert back to a strictly running offense but Landon has really taken charge of the offense and is throwing some good passes and trusting his wide receivers.”
Justin Garza, no relation to Stevan, is leading the Spoilers in receiving yards with 148 on seven catches with three touchdowns. Five different Grafton pass-catchers have touchdowns.
In addition to Rios’ strong running, Grafton has received 385 yards on 49 carries from Reyes, who ran for 100 yards on 11 carries in last week’s win over Rugby.
“We’re seeing eight- and nine-man boxes,” Muhonen said. “It’s nice and refreshing to get production out of everyone else.”
The passing attack has added some room to roam for Rios, too.
“Watching him run is crazy,” Muhonen said. “It’s one cut, and he’s through the line of scrimmage and making guys miss. He’s probably the best sprinter on the track team. Defenders are hesitant to fill the hole because he’s so big, but then he’s through the line and looking for open green.”
Rios also leads the defense with 43 tackles and three sacks. The Spoilers’ defense has generated nine interceptions including five from Stevan Garza, who has returned two back for touchdowns.
Stevan moved this fall from safety to outside linebacker.
“He’s been incredible,” Muhonen said. “He’s settled into that spot, both in run support and coverage. He’s all over the place.”