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Aaron Hagen/Daily Globe Minnesota West running back James Sebea (21) drags defenders for a big gain during Saturday's college football game in Worthington.

Pickens and Sebea: The dynamic duo

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WORTHINGTON -- One is quick and shifty.

The other will run over opposing defenses.

But together, Travaris Pickens and James Sebea have provided a dangerous one-two punch in the backfield of Minnesota West's football team this season.

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As a finesse running back, Pickens had rushed 92 times for 499 yards and three touchdowns while averaging 5.4 yards per carry.

"I'm more of a scat and finesse back," Pickens said. "I use my agility and my quickness to my advantage. James is the power back, and I'm more of the speedy, quick back."

As a player that will deliver a hit, Sebea has rushed for 435 yards and two touchdowns, while averaging 5.4 yards per carry.

"They used to call me little Emmitt Smith because I'm the type of back that doesn't like to go down after one hit," Sebea said. "You'll have to take the whole team to take me down."

While players competing for playing time can often cause problems, the two have embraced the competition.

"I have no problem with it," Pickens said. "I encourage him, just like I like him to encourage me. I like the way he's running right now."

As definition of the word "team", Sebea compliments Pickens in the same fashion.

"It's working out pretty good," Sebea said. "The offensive line is doing a really good job and Pickens is a great running back.

"I'm the type of player that I'm laid back and I listen to what the coaches tell me to do. I'm not going to sit here and fight about a position."

In the Bluejays' most recent success, a 41-10 victory against Fergus Falls last Saturday, Pickens rushed for 149 yards on 13 carries, while Sebea gained 71 yards on 12 carries. Each player scored a touchdown.

"Last game it was my mom's birthday," Pickens said. "I called her and I told her that I wanted to get 200 yards and two touchdowns for her. I believe that if I didn't get taken out in the fourth quarter, I would have got it. But I wasn't disappointed because I wanted the other guys who haven't played to get in the game and give them an opportunity to make things happen.

"I called her and told her what happened and she wasn't disappointed because I was 60 yards and a touchdown away from my goal."

With head coach Jeff Linder believing in a balanced offensive attack, both backs have had an opportunity to carry the load.

"We've always believed that you have to be able to control the clock and run the ball," Linder said. "We're fortunate enough to have two good backs, and our offensive line has done an outstanding job this year to help them get those yards.

"You can't forget about the receivers blocking down the field; our running game has been pretty good to us this year."

Even though Pickens and Sebea are the ones who receive the attention, both players know who is responsible for their success.

"The offensive line has done a heck of a job," Sebea said. "I can't say anything more because they've done so much good. They did a lot of hard work. They've done their job and opened beautiful holes for me and Pickens. If it wasn't for them I don't think we would be 7-1."

Through eight games, the Bluejays have suffered only one loss and are in good position to make the playoffs for the first time since 2006.

However, a pesky Rochester team awaits the Bluejays Saturday.

With a victory, MW will secure a Southern Division championship and a first round home playoff game.

"I knew it since last year that we had a strong group of players," Pickens said. "I spoke to everyone last year that if they came back we were going to have a strong and deadly team. We hit a bump at the beginning of the season that made us get our heads straight and let us know that we are beatable. That one loss put us on the right track as far as getting prepared and getting us focused."

Pickens was used primarily on special teams last season before having the opportunity at the starting tailback position this season.

"Coach Linder said that if I did all the right things, keep my grades right and stay out of trouble, the job would be mine," Pickens said. "So far I've done what I'm supposed to do."

As quarterback Lon Garfield returned this season and with a strong receiving corps, Pickens wasn't sure how many carries he would see this season.

"I expected us to throw the ball a lot and not do a lot of running," Pickens said. "But we've evened it out and it's been a balanced offense. I expected James to be here. I thought I wanted the load on my own, but it's easier having somebody beside me. The one-two combo, I like that."

While Pickens enjoys the one-two combo, the defenses have struggled with the duo this season.

"You change styles a little bit and it's a different type of person you have to tackle as a defender," Linder said. "It also gives them some repetitions off so they're not getting overly tired. That way we're able to do more down the stretch later in the game."

After sitting out last season, the road hasn't been easy for Sebea to return to the spotlight.

The sophomore played in '06 on a Bluejay team that finished 5-5. Sebea then took a year off before returning to the field this season.

With extensive offseason work, Sebea was able to get back in football shape and has been productive this season.

"When I went home for the summer I had a personal trainer that worked me out," Sebea said. "We did upper body, lower body and sprints. He got my 40 speed right. I was running a 4.9 (seconds) when I was at home, and then before I left I was running a 4.3 or 4.4."

As both players hope their Minnesota West career has more than one game remaining, each back is looking ahead to schools for next season.

Sebea is looking to return close to his hometown of Miami, Fla., while Pickens, who is from West Palm Beach, Fla., has mentioned Iowa St. as a possible destination next year.

But before the two shed Minnesota West blue for their new uniforms, this season is far from done.

"I'm excited to see what happens and how things play out," Pickens said.

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