CUMBERLAND – Mike Stock was a mere sophomore backup tailback/safety as he watched Cumberland High, including standout senior brother Dan, throttle archrival Woonsocket, 49-0, in the R.I. Division II Super Bowl a December ago at East Greenwich's Nick Carcieri Field.
For the Clippers, it was their first state championship in decades.
“I remember seeing all of the seniors being really happy at finally being able to win one because it had been so long,” stated the younger Stock, whose principal duty was to serve on the special teams. “I have to admit I was a little sad; it was the last game I'd ever to be able to play with (the soon-to-be-graduates), and Dan as well.”
With more than a little help from older brother, Mike has developed into a dangerous threat at tailback, not to mention free safety. In fact, even he says he's surprised by his successes this fall.
Still, his abilities are one of many explanations as to why Cumberland will attempt to defend that Bowl title on Sunday; that's when it will battle West Warwick at Cranston Stadium (game time is slated for 3 p.m.).
Stock didn't play at all in a 21-14 triumph over the Villa Novans on Thanksgiving morn, as veteran head coach Chris Skurka chose to hold him out. The reason: He rambled for a whopping 167 yards and four touchdowns on 30 handles in the Clippers' 49-35 semifinal victory over St. Raphael two weeks ago at Tucker Field. He also snagged an 11-yard scoring toss from quarterback Tyler Calabro.
“I wanted him to rest up for the playoffs,” Skurka said. “He had five touchdowns in that game alone, and 30 carries is a lot. He was a little banged up, but he's been so important to us. Really, I didn't want to risk it.”
Of the 11 games he's participated in thus far – CHS will carry a 9-3 overall mark (5-2 in II-B) into the contest, the Wizards 8-3 (5-2 in the same) – Stock has hustled for 830 total ground yards and eight paydirts on 155 handles (5.36 yards per carry). Through the air, he's snagged 12 balls for 212 yards and four more TDs; that's a per-catch average of 18 yards.
It gets better: While patrolling the secondary, he's intercepted five enemy passes, but also raced up from his free safety position to post 55 tackles, two fumble recoveries and a half-dozen aerials defended.
The soft-spoken Stock nevertheless claimed none of that would've been possible without the support from Dan, now a freshman running back at Curry College; or the supreme play of his offensive line.
“He's always encouraged me,” Mike explained recently. “Whenever I was working out, he was there, too. He always told me to try to do my best, and to never stop working on my skills as a football player.
“We're pretty close; when we played together, we were always talking about football,” he continued. “He pretty much told me I could control my own fate, and – that if I wanted to start (this season) – I had to work really hard, that I was always in charge of my workouts, my conditioning, my destiny.
“Dan actually hurt his foot early in (Curry's) season; he had a sprained ankle. I know he was on the scout team at first, but then the second-string back got injured, and he would've stepped into his role if he hadn't been injured.
“This season, I never thought I'd be able to do as well as I have, but I have to credit my line.”
He then rattled off the names of senior center Randy Wood; junior right guard Nick Giorgio; senior left guard and tri-captain Josh Pizzarelli; senior tackles John Sikie (left) and Ricky Goodreau; and senior tight end/tri-captain Chris Hayes. (He didn't forget captain/fullback Joe Fine).
“Those guys always got a big push on every play; they'd open up huge holes for me,” Stock mentioned. “I don't think I'd really do that well, but they're just so good at blocking … I always looked up to Dan as a football player, but also a person. He never stopped encouraging me.
“If I didn't feel like training, he'd push me, especially in conditioning,” he added. “If one day I didn't want to run, he'd tell me I wouldn't go places if I didn't. He said how important it was, that – if I wanted to get better – it was the only way.
“I always thought of Dan as a quiet person, but also really funny. I consider myself a joke-around kind of guy, and he always took things more seriously than I did, but he has a light side, too. This summer, we'd go to the gym at Forecourt for at least an hour and a half every day; I actually followed his workout (regimen) from college. Some things I knew, but others I didn't. He taught me how to lift the right way, the muscles to be worked (given the machine).
“Like I said, he was a huge help.”
Stock didn't fail to mention the impact running backs coach Frank Salisbury has had on his improvement.
“He's really helped me a lot,” he offered. “He teaches me the fundamentals, and how to stay really focused, and that helps us when we play. After all, fundamentals are a huge part of the game.”
Skurka, for one, can see the similarities between the Stocks, who are separated by two years.
“They're a lot alike physically,” he stated. “Dan's senior year, he was bigger so he was more of a workhorse; he was a very good blocker. Mike is better at running it, Dan at catching it, but Mike has great vision. He has the ability to find the holes and cut back.”
During the Bowl run, Stock, a wingback/safety, compiled 560 ground yards and 10 scores on 68 touches, and also managed 227 yards on 17 receptions, good for four TDs.
“Don't forget, (Dan) had 14 (total) touchdowns, but our offense racked up 445 points last year,” Skurka noted. “Mike has 12, and we've only scored 318. That tells you something. Both are very smart players, they understand the game and the concepts we're trying to teach.
“They're a lot alike because they both work tremendously hard in the weight room during the offseason; I'm not surprised with what Mike's accomplished this season.”
Dan made such an impact during the 2012 campaign, he received the school's Ed Monigan Memorial “Big Blue Award,” which is given to the gridder who best exemplifies “what Cumberland High football is all about,” Skurka said.
As for the prospect of earning a second straight Division II crown, Stock just said, “Wow! Winning back-to-back championships would be amazing, but I want it more for the seniors. They so deserve it. They've worked hard for four years, and I know they really want to go out on top.
“I wanted to play last year, but I also knew we had a lot of players who were better than me,” he added. “I had to accept the fact I had to wait, and now it's paying off. I still never dreamed I'd have the season I am, but there's one more left. We have to concentrate on that.”