Southland pair emerge from shadows

Running back Kawan Rally, left, of El Camino Real, and Zander Anding of Burroughs, are gaining attention with their big numbers. Dustin Jack Photography, Courtesy of Dwight Kim

LOS ANGELES -- Kawan Rally who? Zander Anding what?

If their names sound unfamiliar, fear not. You are not alone.

Make no mistake, both running backs are not nearly as well-known as some of their more high-profile peers from the Southland. Nevertheless, Rally from Woodland Hills El Camino Real and Anding from Burbank Burroughs are a pair of seniors worth remembering.

In terms of statistical performances this season, each is in the midst of an eye-opening effort. Rally and Anding, in fact, are on the verge of stealing the spotlight from their more publicized counterparts at the position.

“People don't talk about me all the time, but that's cool, I go out there and let my play do the talking for me. That's how you get everyone's attention,'' Rally said.

All signs point to his strategy paying off. Eventually.

Rally leads California in rushing, having surpassed the 2,000-yard plateau with 327 yards on the ground and four touchdowns in last week's 49-20 victory over Chatsworth. The 5-foot-10, 220-plus pound tailback has 2,033 yards in 193 carries this season, a 10.5 yards-per-carry average. He also has 27 touchdowns.

The standout performances have been many thus far. He has had three game with 300 or more rushing yards and finished with 200 or more yards on six different occasions. Also worth mentioning is Rally averages 11 yards per touch catching the ball out of the backfield.

“Kawan's numbers don't reflect the the type of leader he is for us, both on and off the field,'' El Camino Real coach Kevin Williams said. “He's a leader, not a follower. His teammates would follow him just about anywhere too. That's what separates him from the others.

“Then again, there's no denying it, he's having a huge year. Teams put an extra man in the box against him all the time. They'll do anything to try and stop him. You have to account for him at all times when he's on the field. Kawan has managed to overcome that kind of stuff to emerge as a Division I prospect. I wouldn't be surprised to see him play on Sundays in the NFL.''

First things first. Rally must move onto the next level in college.

He has recently been contacted by several Pac-12 Conference programs, including nearby UCLA and USC. However, it appears as if Utah is the most interested.

One problem: Rally does not have any scholarship offers on the table. Apparently, schools are taking a wait-and-see approach with him. Things could be on the verge of changing, especially if he continues piling up yardage totals at the current staggering rate.

The numbers rarely, if ever, lie. Rally can stuff the stat sheet with the best of them. He figures to do so on Friday for the Conquistadors (7-1 overall) in a showdown against Lake Balboa Birmingham in game with first place at stake in the West Valley League.

“He is not a speed back, or a guy who is going to make a lot of defenders miss in space. But he is a compact runner who rarely goes down on first contact,'' said Billy Tucker, a national recruiting analyst for ESPN who has had the opportunity to scout Rally in the past. “He is just a tough, sturdy back with a bruising downhill style that can wear down defenses.''

Mission Viejo's Jahleel Pinner and South Gate South East's Robert Lewis, along with Torrance North's Ryan McDaniel typically upstage Rally and Anding. It's like clockwork: college coaches travel to the West Coast to recruit all three in the aforementioned group.

The same thing could be said about Fontana Summit's Jamaal Williams and Perris Citrus Hill's Davien Payne. Pasadena Muir's Tairen Owens is in the category as well.

Anding, on the other hand, is no slouch. Far from it, in fact.

He is in the midst of a rather remarkable run. Anding has rushed for at least 300 yards in four consecutive games. Ventura's Tyler Ebell, who later signed with UCLA, did it in five consecutive games in 2000.

Anding has amassed 1,901 yards in 154 carries in his debut as the featured back for the Indians (4-4 overall) this season. He is averaging 12.3 yards per carry and has scored 25 touchdowns, four shy of the school record set by Dominique Barnes in 2008.

The mark could fall Thursday in a Pacific League game against Glendale Hoover if Anding is cleared to play. He sat out last week's game against Muir because of a partially collapsed lung.

“I feel pretty good right now, I should be ready to go,'' Anding said.

“I don't read the newspapers or look at the Internet for my name, I know I'm underrated and there hasn't been a lot of hype about me. My goal is to prove people wrong. I have been playing with a chip on my shoulder. My focus is taking care of the things that are in my control. I'm the kind of guy who works hard and lets the stats do all of the talking.''

Recruiting interest in Anding has picked up during the last few months. He was a guest of UCLA for last week's game against Cal at the Rose Bowl.

Washington and San Diego State are among the schools in contact with the 6-1, 185-pound prospect. Eastern Washington and Central Missouri are players as well.

“Zander is a special talent,'' Burroughs coach Keith Knoop said. “In a lot of ways, he reminds of great USC backs like O.J. Simpson and Marcus Allen. Zander is a smooth runner. He's not a big slasher. He is more of a glider. That's not to say he can't break the big plays, he's done plenty of that for us. Once he gets to top-end speed, not many opponents can catch him.''

Comparisons to Simpson and Allen are a little far-fetched at this stage of Anding's career. Coaches, of course, tend to talk about their star players in such a manner.

Similar to Rally though, Anding has no scholarship offers.

“Anding is a dynamic runner who can move the chains on the ground. He's shown good pass-catching skills as well,'' Tucker said. “He is a bit high-cut, but has deceptive speed. He covers ground and can pull away while remaining slippery to wrap up in the open field.''

In summary, Tucker said: “Rally and Anding are running backs putting up outstanding numbers, there's no doubt about that. Both have some underrated qualities too. Both also have some deficiencies that will be harder to mask if they make it to the next level.''

When it comes down to comparing the premier players at the position in the greater Los Angeles area, the chances of Rally and Anding being mentioned in the same sentence as Pinner, Lewis and McDaniel are unlikely. It's something that doesn't happen very often.

In terms of being overshadowed, Rally and Anding are not alone.

John Curran from San Juan Capistrano Saddleback Valley Christian and Arleta's Dejon Coleman do not receive much, if any, acknowledgment. Each running back is ranked among the state's top 10 in yards rushing too. Sir Darius Yarbrough from Pomona is No. 13 on the list.

“I don't know what I have to do, or what anyone has to do, to get noticed. I won't stop working until people have heard about me,'' Rally said. “I'm overlooked by college coaches and scouts, it lights my fire. It pumps me up. I go hard all the time because of that.''

Constant recognition, or not, the days of flying under the radar are seemingly over for Rally and Anding.

Sean Ceglinsky covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.