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With a brother-in-law in the Army, Max Sorby has picked up some good habits.
During my interview with him, there were a lot of "Yes, ma'ams," and "No, ma'ams." He even used the word ma'am in a text that he sent back to me to confirm our interview time.
"I hear that (kind of talk) from him a lot," Sorby said of his brother-in-law. "And it's my parents, too. They brought me up to be very respectful of everyone."
Sorby, Warren's speedy and slippery, 5-foot-8 running back, certainly has the utmost respect for his offensive linemen. He can't go long without acknowledging their contributions to his success.
"A lot of credit goes to them," Sorby said of Matt Doljanin, Sawyer McCaffrey, Matt Bloom, Tom Steen and Joe Zumpano. "If I get a touchdown or a big run, they are the first guys I thank. I'm always hugging them, telling them how much I appreciate what they do."
There have been plenty of hugs to go around, as there have been plenty of touchdowns and big runs this season for Sorby. He is the ying to the Blue Devils' pass-happy yang. With nearly 1,000 all-purpose yards so far, Sorby is hoping that on Saturday (6 p.m.) against visiting Barrington in the second round of the Class 8A playoffs he can once again bring balance to Warren's spread offense, which is coming off a 431-yard passing game last week.
"We're in a different kind of offense right now where the ball is spread around to a lot of people, especially in the throw game," said Warren coach Dave Mohapp, who used to be a staunch believer in the run-heavy I-formation offense. "We used to run the ball a lot more, but even though that's changed a little bit, Max is still putting up some nice stats. He's a really good athlete with good hands and speed. And the energy this kid has is unbelievable. He's such a hard worker."
Sorby was furiously burning the candle at both ends back in mid-October when he led Warren to a North Suburban Conference crossover win against North Chicago. He rolled up 295 yards and 2 touchdowns on 28 carries.
He was also making one big play after another on defense, since Warren's starting free safety had gone down with an injury. Sorby happily filled in for the entire game.
"I was dead after that game," Sorby said with a laugh. "I was in an ice bath all night. But it was fun to play defense, and on offense, everything was just clicking for us. My vision was good and I just saw a lot of holes and made good cuts.
"Me and the offensive linemen…we have this thing that we always say before every game. It's our motto. We say we're going to go out and 'Shake and Bake.'"
The linemen, Sorby says, bake up the holes and he shakes through them.
Against North Chicago, Sorby shook his way to the top of the Warren record books. Mohapp hasn't been able to verify for sure, but he believes Sorby's 295 yards could be the highest single-game rushing mark in school history, and most certainly in the top five.
Either way, Sorby's mark is impressive, considering how many special running backs the Blue Devils have leaned on over the years. Matt Van Daele, Mitchell Moore, Greg Kennedy, Marvin Bembry and Tommy Lindal all racked up major yardage over their careers.
"Max ranks right up there with all of those guys as one of the better running backs we've had," Mohapp said. "He's not the biggest kid, but like some of those other guys, he'll take on anyone.
"Against North Chicago, he just ran really well. And he did a nice job of reading what his offensive linemen were doing and how they were blocking for him. And he'd be the first person to point that out. Max is such a nice kid, such a team player. He's happy to share the glory with everyone."
Sorby also wants to keep sharing pizzas with his teammates each week. It would mean that they're still alive in the playoffs.
Every Wednesday during the season, the Blue Devils have a team meal at Kaiser's Pizza and Pub in Gurnee.
"Our team this year is so close. I think that's why we've had so much success," Sorby said. "It's like we're a brotherhood. We're all good friends.
"Especially the linemen and me. We're really close. We have a strong bond. I'm going to miss them."
Sorby is hoping to play football in college next year, but he isn't sure where he'll end up.
He went to the U.S. Army National Combine last year at the Alamodone in San Antonio to help his recruiting chances. Perhaps that wasn't a coincidence.
Football or not, the armed services could be the perfect fit for the humble and respectful Sorby, who already has some of the most important lingo down.