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Timeout Football: Malachi Sala is an Ingot that fits mutliple molds

Lake StatiEdison's Kyle Gooch bobbles ball as he is grabbed by River Forest's Malachi SalFriday September 6 2013 Lake Station.

Lake Station Edison's Kyle Gooch bobbles the ball as he is grabbed by River Forest's Malachi Sala on Friday, September 6, 2013 at Lake Station. | Michael Gard/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 19, 2013 6:35AM



Roster depth is a rare luxury for Class 1A and 2A high school football teams. Without an abundance of players, teams must be able to maximize the capabilities of the athletes they have. Teams need players to be multi-dimensional.

Teams need players like Malachi Sala.

“Wherever they want me to be, whatever position they want me to play; I’ll do it for the team,” said Sala, listed on the Ingots’ roster as a 5-foot-7, 145-pound junior running back and linebacker.

“Whatever we tell him to do, he does,” River Forest (5-3, 4-2 GSSC) coach Jeff Bean said of Sala. “He’s one of those kids that is always willing to try. We’ve moved him around quite a lot this year and he’s always willing to do whatever he can for the team.”

Bean learned of Sala’s talents while coaching him in River Forest’s middle school program.

“He really excelled at the junior high level in our program,” Bean said. “We saw the talent he had at the lower levels and we knew that, someday, he was going to be a good player.”

Sala spent the 2012 season as a two-way starter at wide receiver and defensive back for the Ingots.

Offensively, Sala continued to excel in the WR role during the first few weeks of the 2013 season. But Sala’s speed and elusiveness in the open field prompted an expanded role in the River Forest offense.

“Him moving to running back was a bit of a surprise this year,” Bean explained. “We started him out at wide receiver and he did really well. He also ran some of our counters and jet sweeps and we started thinking that, with his speed, we needed to get him in the backfield more.”

That move was a big factor in last Friday’s 30-20 upset win over Whiting (7-1, 5-1 GSSC).

After Whiting scored a touchdown on its opening drive, a throwback on the ensuing kickoff gave the Ingots the ball at their own 44-yard line. Sala gained 8 yards on first down and then ripped off a 48-yard touchdown run to match Whiting’s early strike.

“I just saw some clear daylight to the end zone and I took off as fast as I could,” Sala said, adding that he went untouched on the play.

After countering Whiting’s quick start, the Ingots forced five Oilers’ turnovers, helping River Forest end Whiting’s 13-game unbeaten streak. Sala was sporting a wide grin after the game, as well as plenty of grass and mud stains from the River Forest turf, evidence of another busy Friday night.

“He doesn’t come off the field at all,” said Bean. “We tell every kid in the program that they have to know two offensive spots, two defensive spots and they have to be willing to play all special teams.”

Sala does all of that for the Ingots, and he’s incredibly productive in every phase. He’s the team’s leading rusher with 92 carries, 621 yards and 10 touchdowns. He’s also the team leader in receptions (26) and receiving yards (311), with two additional touchdowns. On defense, where Sala has spent time at both linebacker and cornerback, he ranks second on the team with 39 solo tackles and is in a three-way tied for third on the team with three sacks.

Despite rarely getting a break, Sala said he’s learned to never show a hint of fatigue on the field.

“My dad taught me that; to never show any weakness, to never say you’re tired or anything like that,” Sala said.

It’s also through his father, Bobby Sala, that Malachi picked up the athlete gene. Football is one of four sports that Sala plays each year.

“He played sports his whole life,” Sala said of his father. “I just love playing sports; I love being active. I can’t ever just sit down and not do anything. I’m not like that.”

It’s a good trait for Sala to have. With the do-or-die postseason beginning next week, Sala’s Friday nights will only get busier.

“It’s a lot of fun to be out there with my teammates,” said Sala. “I’m just humbled and blessed to be a part of this team.”

Sala and the rest of the River Forest Ingots conclude the regular season on the road against South Central on Friday.



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