The question made DeLaSalle football coach Sean McMenomy smile. He sat back in his chair inside the coaches office at the downtown Minneapolis school and pondered an answer to this query: If you’re a defensive coach, how do you stop Reggie Gandy?
“Defending him? You’ve got to take care of your gaps and kind of bottle him up, I guess,” he said.
Guesswork is probably as good a strategy as just about anything else that teams have attempted against Gandy, who will lead the Islanders into the Class 3A state semifinals against Holy Family on Saturday at the Metrodome. Gandy is the kind of runner who causes nightmares for defensive coordinators and headaches for statisticians.
The 5-foot-11, 187-pound senior has rushed 278 times for 2,839 yards (an average of more than 10 yard per carry) and 38 touchdowns. His longest run of the season was a 77-yard touchdown burst against LeSueur-Henderson in DeLaSalle’s 44-0 quarterfinal victory on Monday at the Metrodome.
Gandy rushed 21 times for 233 yards and five touchdowns (one of them is pictured at right) in that game. That was a pretty nice way to become acclimated to indoor football, leading to what the Islanders hope is a state title.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Gandy said. “We’re just kind of living for the moment and enjoying it.”
Saturday’s game could turn into a fireworks show because Holy Family also likes to move up and down the field. The No. 2 rusher in the state is Fire senior quarterback Jeff Soule with 1,953 yards; he also has passed for 1,353 yards.
DeLaSalle has scored an average of almost 48 points this fall (ranking second in the state to Class 1A Minneota’s 49), while giving up an average of 16. Holy Family’s average score is 44-15.
“Holy Family has been putting up big numbers and they’re a great team,” McMenomy said. “I’m OK with a basketball score; that’s my style and I have more fun with that vs. a 3-0 game. It’s two great teams. They’re undefeated and they have a lot of confidence.”
DeLaSalle has not lost since opening the season with a 30-27 defeat to St. Anthony Village. Gandy ran for 91 yards in that game but exploded a week later in a 48-40 shootout with Concordia Academy; he carried 43 times for 359 yards and six touchdowns. Since then, his single-game rushing totals read like the weights of a team of sumo wrestlers: 358, 381, 412, 355, etc.
“He’s really intelligent so he understands the game, he understands the nuances of why things happen and he reads defenses very well,” McMenomy said. “Physically, he’s always in the weight room (where he bench-presses 335 pounds and squats 615).”
Gandy has received scholarship offers from Northern Iowa and North Dakota. He plans to take official visits after the football season, saying “I’m just kind of holding out on it so I won’t get off track on what our goals are.” He had planned to take a visit on Dec. 19, but that’s the date of the Mr. Football banquet; he is one of 10 finalists for that award.
Gandy, along with his older brother Greg and younger brother GeVelve, has survived a challenging home life.
“His mom kind of left under some circumstances about 10 years ago, and probably about seven years ago their father died of cancer,” McMenomy said. “The three of them were taken in by an aunt, their dad’s sister. They’ve lived in two- or three-bedroom houses with nine or 12 people in them. For those guys to grow and be successful is a great thing.
“Reggie has a 3.1 GPA, got a 25 on the ACT and he’s a team captain. Everyone has fallen in love with him. He’s a role model, an ambassador for the honors program. He’s kind of been the rock for the family.”
Greg Gandy is a student at Minnesota Community and Technical College and GeVelve is a sophomore defensive back for the Islanders. Reggie transferred from Minneapolis Southwest to DeLaSalle when McMenomy made the same move two years ago. McMenomy, a Rosemount native who played for coach Jim Wacker at Minnesota, has known Reggie since he was a seventh-grader.
“He’s a great coach in general, but we all think he’s amazing and he’s probably the funniest guy around, that’s for sure,” Gandy said of McMenomy. “He always finds a way to lighten the mood or make it a little more intense, which always helps. He sometimes jumps in a jersey, too, and acts like he’s 18 years old. It doesn’t always work out for him but it’s fun to watch.”
Last season, Gandy was DeLaSalle’s No. 2 rusher behind Evan Williams. Williams carried 186 times for 2,201 yards and 31 TDS, while Gandy had 137 rushes for 1,340 yards and 24 touchdowns.
“Evan was a sprinter and he’d sprint around the edge,” McMenomy said. “Reggie likes contact, he likes being physical and he likes running over people.”
This season, the Islanders’ offense is multi-dimensional. Quarterback Tyler Harper is a 58-percent passer who has thrown for 1,735 yards (ranking 15th in the state) and 21 touchdowns. Harper also has rushed for 662 yards, while Dio Zafke-Varela, Aaron Warren and Chris Williams all have run for more than 200 yards. Ross Barker has caught 25 passes for 840 yards (No. 6 in the state) and 10 touchdowns, and Williams has 20 catches for 335 yards.
But everything revolves around Gandy, who has made opposing coaches fret all season. And now that the postseason is in full swing, the awards are rolling in. In addition to being a Mr. Football finalist, Gandy also has been named a first-team all-metro selection by the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
“That’s nice,” he said. “But it’s not our ultimate goal.”
Sleep well, defensive coordinators.