The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. It's a basic geometric principle that translates to many parts of everyday life.
Orange County running back Jaylen Alexander also uses that mathematical equation on the gridiron as the featured back in coach Jesse Lohr’s offense. Last week, the junior standout rushed for 299 yards and a pair of touchdowns to lead the Hornets to a 30-14 victory over Charlottesville.
A downhill runner, Alexander gained 120 yards on the first two carries and watched from the sidelines in the second half as his team improved to 2-2. That performance earned him Schewels Athlete of the Week honors.
“I had a great game last week, especially only playing the first half,” Alexander said. “It’s actually one of my better games in my high school career. It’s easy when everyone does their job and holes open for me. Props to my [offensive] line, because they are the key in our offense.”
Alexander has been a fixture in the backfield for the Hornets since he transferred to Orange from St. Anne’s-Belfield. He rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons, including more than 1,600 last season for an Orange County team that reached the Class 5 playoffs.
He is on pace to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark again. Through four games, Alexander has rushed for 750 yards and five touchdowns. The junior has rushed for more than 100 yards in every game, and is the only back to surpass the century mark against Eastern View’s stout defense this season.
“I’ll give major props to my offensive line,” Alexander said. “It’s been basically the same line as last season. These guys have been playing together for years, so each year they gain more experience as well as maturity, I also set personal goals outside of my team goals, so I’m focused and determined to achieve both.”
Alexander was introduced to the sport at the age of 5 after playing youth-league basketball and soccer. His first exposure to football was with the Orange Stingers, a time that he will not soon forget.
“After that first day of camp, I gained a passion for the game,” he said. “There was a time that I wanted to quit after being hit so hard, but I hung in there and have two national championships under my belt. It’s a blessing to have started with the league, because they have become family and treated everyone as such.”
The Orange County product credits Lohr for believing in him.
“Coach Lohr is a run-first type of guy, so me being a running back, I’m completely happy with his style of offense,” Alexander said. “I fit in well with this offense. If I’m not running the ball, I’m blocking and if I’m not blocking, I’m protecting my quarterback.’
Alexander said he patterns his game after New York Giants rookie running back Saquon Barkley. He believes they both feature a physical running style. One thing that Alexander would like to incorporate more in his game is catching passes out of the backfield. He said it’s “the most underrated part” of his game.
His favorite play in Lohr’s playbook is simple.
“Run right is my favorite play,” he said. “I actually like the ball on my right side. The way the play is designed, if there is no direct lane to the right, almost 90 percent of the time there is cut-back lane. My main objective is to make it down the field.”
As the focal point of the offense for the past two seasons, Alexander said he doesn’t feel any added pressure. Even with defenses geared to stopping him, he manages to find success.
“It shows that people know who you are and what you’re capable of,” Alexander said. “It’s even sweeter when they know you’re getting the ball and still have to stop you. But with that attention, it sets up my teammates and opens up that window for the rest of the talent on our team. So, when teams stack the box with players, that window opens up for them to do their jobs. It’s all about teamwork.”
Off the field, Alexander enjoys spending time with family and friends.
“I think it’s important to keep that balance,” he said.
He also flourishes in the classroom.
“I’m the type of person that just enjoys learning,” he said. “My favorite subject is math. I’m pretty good with numbers.”
Alexander’s talent earned him plenty of attention on the recruiting trail. He’s received interest from several Division I schools, including Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, Virginia and Rutgers.
“The recruiting process has been full of experiences,” he said. “It’s overwhelming sometimes, but I’m enjoying it. All the coaches have been very welcoming. I think the coaches like that I’m a balanced player and can fit into their program.”
With a quarter of the football season in the books, Alexander said the Hornets’ season is still in front of them. Orange boasts a 2-2 record heading into this week’s Jefferson District showdown with Fluvanna County. He said the team is focused on winning districts.
“This season has been pretty decent,” he said. “We’re still working on getting key pieces together. As a team, we have to work on eliminating our turnovers. We tend to beat ourselves sometimes in games, but when we’re on and everyone is doing their job, it’ll be hard to stop us.”