By Dave Morrison
It’s still a milestone, the 1,000 yardstick of football measurements.
Even in the NFL, where you need only average 62.5 yards rushing to get to the mark, it’s acknowledged.
It’s a feat. It’s an accomplishment.
Nowhere is it a bigger accomplishment than at the high school level. Especially if you do it in a regular season.
You have to average 100 yards per game to get to 1,000. That’s a big season.
In this area there were nine rushers who reached 1,000 in, at most, 10 games.
And not one of those runners reached triple figures in every game. It’s hard to do and it makes 1,000 the gridiron benchmark that it is.
These nine rushers come in all shapes and sizes, and some aren’t even runners by position, though the mobile quarterback is more of a thing now than ever before.
They got there in different ways.
The area leader, Caleb Richmond, from Meadow Bridge, got there the old fashioned way, three yards and a cloud of dust. Nearly literally. He carried 353 times for 1,601 yards, an average of 4.5 yards per carry.
Richmond is the first 1,000 yard rusher at the run happy Meadow Bridge since 2015, when Shane Harless did it.
Contrast that with Bluefield’s J.J. Davis, who had 1,046 yards on 73 carries in nine games. That’s an average of 14.3 yards per carry.
Oak Hill’s Khori Bass likes to take direct snaps and take it up the gut and he did that well, for 1,002 yards. He is also a 1,000 yard passer for the Red Devils.
PikeView’s Evan Rose has been here before, three other times to be exact and he finished with nearly 5,600 career yards.
Jordan Dempsey started his career as a quarterback. Because of injury he ended it there as well. In between as a running back, he had three 1,0000 yard seasons. The multi-threat – he’s more than a dual threat – Dempsey had 3,720 yards and 53 rushing touchdowns.
Niko Burgess is a former wide receiver at Independence. And he is now a current 1,000 yard rusher.
Seven are seniors, four are repeat 1,000 rushers, one is a junior, one a sophomore.
Here are some tales from the 1,000 yard club.
Meadow Bridge’s Caleb Richmond didn’t come out of nowhere. He showed signs that he was a player with which to be reckoned last year. After taking over as the feature back in week four he rushed for 905 yards on 195 carries.
In two years he has amassed 548 carries for 2,506 yards and 28 touchdowns. Oh and he starts on defense and is the team’s leading tackler are well. Tough. Old-school tough
“He is one of the toughest players I have ever coached,” Meadow Bridge coach Dewayne Reichard said. “He was our team leader on both sides of the ball. His toughness as a ball carrier was a lot like (all-stater) Jake Parker from a few years ago. There aren’t many players who can average 35 carries a night.:
And it’s not like he’s doing it at fullback size either. You;d think you need some bulk to withstand that type of punishment.
Parker goes about 160 pounds.
“Him being 160 compared to Parker at 195 and still going throng on the defensive side of the ball says a lot about his work in the weight room,” Reichard said. “He spent a lot of time preparing his body for the workload we asked of him.”
An injury to Ayden Redden in week 3 amped up that workload even more.
“We knew he would have to carry a bulk of the load offensively,” Reichard said. “We had hoped to split carries between the two so we could keep (Richmond) fresher for defense.”
It didn’t quite work out that way.
He had eight games of over 100 yards and early on had games of 43 carries, 38 carries and 36 carried.
Instead of the workload taking its toll, he got stronger.
In his last three games he went over 200 yards three times. He had 635 yards on 115 carries including a tour de force of 48 carries against Montcalm,
He scored 10 of his 20 touchdowns as Meadow Bridge won two of the three to finish 5-5.
“He surpassed my expectations with 1,600 yards,” Reichard said. “And he averaged 12 tackles per game. I didn’t know it was possible for a kid his size to accomplish that. He had three games of 40 or more carries and still led the team in tackles every night. He knew he couldn’t take any plays off. That’s just the kind of young man he is. He is a hard worker that comes from a hard-working family.”
PikeView’s Evan Rose will go out a record setter. He has put up some huge numbers over his career, going over 1,000 yards all four of his varsity seasons.
Last season he teamed with Hunter Mitchelson to form the regular season’s top 1-2 tandem, Michelson rushing for 1,747 yards and 22 TD and Rose adding 1,573 and 19 touchdowns.
Back and fourth they went. After Mitchelson set the school-record with 293 yards against Shady Spring, Rose came back the next week against Fayetteville and broke it with 361 yards.
In the last two years Rose had that one 300-yard game, three 200-yard games and 11 100-yard games. So he topped 100 yards in all but four games during the last two years, two of those in 2017 against playoff teams James Monroe and Nicholas County and this season against defending AA champion Bluefield and playoff-bound Shady Spring.
Rose has 1,583 this season and 1,573 last year, 20 touchdowns this season 19 last season for 3,156 yards and 39 touchdowns. He averaged 7.6 yards per rush the last two seasons.
His offensive coordinator, Josh Wyatt, knows what he had at PikeView and it was more than just a runner.
“He’s going to down as statistically the nest to ever do it here at PikeView but he’s also leaving behind a memory of a kid with a great attitude, tremendous leadership and a hard worker,” Wyatt said. “He was all in here and believed in everything we asked him to do. I feel very lucky to say I coached Evan Rose.”
Wyoming East’s Caleb Bower is the young pup of the group, as a sophomore.
Bower showed signs of being a great one early when he had 208 yards rushing against Westside. He also had 222 against Oak Hill and 247 against Independence.
He is the first 1,000 yard rusher at Wyoming East since Nik Walker did it in 2014, the last time the Warriors made the postseason.
With a bulk of talent coming back next season Bower, one of the strongest players for his size in the area, will have a chance at a repeat performance.
He had seven 100 games or better.
At a school that gave us the likes of Tank Tunstalle and Michael Hill, and is the pseudo alma mater of Curt Warner, Bower hopes to be the next great one at Wyoming East.
In 1999 when the Warriors won the state championship, Tunstalle, Hill and Justin Grogg all had over 1,000 rushing.
Yet there have been just three 1,000 runners the last decade.
“It’s an honor to break over 1,000 yards,” Bower said. “It’s a lot of hard work and stuff we put in at practice and in the offseason lifting weights. That was one of my goals in the preseason, to get over 1,000 rushing and I completed that. Still, we want to win more games.”
Bower finished third in the regular season with 1,290 yards rushing, 540 more than the entire East team had last season. He averaged 7.4 yards and scored 13 touchdowns.
It’s too soon to compare him to the likes of a Tank Tunstalle. And there was but one Curt Warner. But Bower is certainly putting himself among the Parthenon of great ones at Wyoming East.
It’s almost unfair to label Fayetteville’s Jordan Dempsey as just a running back. He is a great one, with three straight 1,000 yard seasons as proof. But he can also play receiver and quarterback at a high level.
In fact, he started his career at quarterback and moved to running back early in his sophomore season.
That season he came on and his big performance against Wheeling Central, on a senior-laden team, really opened eyes.
Unfortunately he ended his season where it started, at quarterback, when Logan Frantz was lost for the season to an ankle injury in the ninth game of the season.
He took it an ran with it, and threw the team’s only touchdown pass of the season to Calvin Endicott.
For his career Dempsey completed 74 of 144 passes for 751 yards and four touchdowns and caught 55 passes for 816 yards and eight touchdowns. That’s 5,287 total yards. He was responsible for 68 touchdowns. And he scored 412 points (14 2 pointers).
This season Dempsey finished with 1,233 yards and 17 touchdowns rushing. He might not be labeled as only a running back – he is the classic utility player only with the ability to do the other things above average – but he certainly fits the bill as one of the area’s best.
He coach Dave Moneypenny probably said it best.
“He was a team player, unselfish and committed,” Moneypenny said. “He never missed a practice in four years.”
Independence’s Niko Burgess might not know it, but his coach John H. Lilly has been down this road before.
Burgess was moved from wide receiver to running back early in the season and the results were all positive.
He finished with 1,144 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns for the Patriots, who won four of their last six games.
Big numbers for a former receiver but not anything John H. Lilly hasn’t done before.
“I did that once before with Nate Manns and again with Andrew Johnson (who moved to quarterback. Both those players played for Lilly at Woodrow Wilson),” Lilly said. “Both those players ended up with over 1,000 (rushing) so I was pretty confident it would work. It’s a pretty simple formula. Put the ball in your best athletes hands. It will usually end up positive.”
Time and time again Burgess came up big for the Patriots.
He had 204 yards and four touchdowns in the team’s win over Westside.
After moving to the backfield he had over 100 in six of the last eight games. And he had over 100 yards in all four of the team’s wins.
After having just five carries for 77 yards in the first two games, Burgess finished with 133 carries for 1,067 yards, an average of 8.0 yards per carry as a full-time running back.
In the team’s 36-33 victory over Wyoming East in the season finale, Burgess scored two touchdowns on the ground (one on the first play from scrimmage a 75-yard run) and he also scored on a screen pass that he took over 50 yards for a score.
“He came through for us just like he has all season,” Lilly said. “We could always count on him to get the job done.”
Nicholas County had a memorable 10-0 regular season and Jake O’Dell put up over 1,000 yards with 1,094. More impressive is the fact that he found the end zone 24 times and led the area in rushing touchdowns. In fact, he scored a rushing touchdown every 7.04 times he touched the football.
He had just four 100 yard games but he made the most of the last one with a career-best 264 against Richwood.
He had 13 career 100-plus games in his career and that’s because of what his coach, Gene Morris, calls great vision.
“His ability to see the field sets him apart from other running backs,” Morris said. He is very uncommitted to the predetermined area of attack.”
In other words, he can spot openings in other areas and exploit those, an uncanny ability for a high school running back.
“Jacob makes the o-line’s blocks right,” Morris added. “He has great patience as he attacks the line of scrimmage. Plus he has very good breakaway speed once he gets into the secondary.”
He has had a stellar career as well. In addition to 1,094 yards this year, and 1,141 last season, he had 699 and 12 touchdowns as a sophomore.
For his career O’Dell has 3,016 yards rushing and 48 rushing touchdowns and averages 6.3 yards per carry.
“Jacob is a team player,” Morris said. “He’s always done whatever we asked of him. Hopefully I’ll get to coach him a few more weeks.”
The Grizzlies host Petersburg in Summersville Friday.
Bluefield certainly put up some numbers last season led by Kennedy Award winner Mookie Collier.
Last year in the regular season Collier averaged 14.2 yards per carry, amassing 1,472 yards on 104 carries.
Thus season, J.J. Davis has topped that, averaging 14.3 yards per carry with 1,046 on 73 carries.
Davis isn’t a Kennedy contender, at least not this season. Collier was an explosive player who also had 24 touchdowns in the regular season.
But he is serving notice that he is a player with whom to be reckoned. One of three on the team in fact. By the end of postseason player Juice Edwards likely will join him and Arnold Martin has a chance.
But Davis is showing he has the stuff to be a feature back.
He does lead the team in carries in nine games and he also leads the team in rushing touchdowns with 12.
He has had six 100-plus games, including a tour de force with 286 and four touchdowns against James Monroe. In case you are wondering, Collier’s season high last year was 293.
In fairness, Collier sat a lot of second halves last year, as Davis has this year.
The last two 1,000 rushers are quarterbacks by definition, dual threats by trade.
Midland Trail has had a special season, the school’s first 10-0 campaign, something that hasn’t been done since pre-consolidation at Ansted when a guitar named Tom Pridemore played. Don’t know him. Played at WVU and for the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons. Once intercepted Joe Montana and returned it 100 yards for a score.
Midland Trail’s Austin Isaacs likewise has had a special season with 1,020 yards rushing and he is 16 yards from throwing for 1,000.
Literally nobody saw this coming from the 135-pound quarterback, but then toughness at that size runs in the family.
His dad Frank, the architect of the Trail turnaround from pushed around to perfect, once started as nose guard as a 140-pound sophomore.
Isaacs has five 100-plus rushing games on a team that has guys like Cordell Lester, Morgan Ferris, Nathan Hanshew and Colton Yoder who have all put up 100 yard games and multi-touchdown contests.
He had 131 against Liberty for a season high. Ironically he set the single-game touchdown passing against Liberty last year.
In bears noting that three times Isaacs has had 100 yards rushing and 100 yards passing in the same game.
“I did not see him being a dual threat the way he has become,” coach Isaacs said.
Of course, he fights the size demon on the field.
“He gets zero respect because of his size,” Isaacs said. He is faster than most quarterbacks and a lot tougher than any 135 pound kid I know. Someone who didn’t run more than 30 times last year to get to 122 this year has really impacted our offense.”
That and the backfield by committee has helped Trail make up for the loss of 2,000 yard and record holding rusher Thomas Ferris.
Nobody has been snake bit by the injury bug more than Oak Hill quarterback Khori Bass.
He missed his entire sophomore season with an arm injury.
En route to a record setting season last year with nearly 800 yards in three-and-a-half games he was injured again.
He still returned to record a 1,000 yard rushing season.
This year he has been injury free and again put up 1,000 (1,002 yards) and added 13 touchdowns. With the emergence of first-year senior Abe Farrow Bass has showed he can also pass the ball, becoming the area’s first 1,000-1,000 player (rushing-passing).
The offense isn’t hard to figure out. It is hard to stop. Bass likes to take the direct snap and look for and find a hole.
“Khori has been a great rusher for us, he is an excellent down hill runner who is patient and allows holes to open for him,” coach Jason Blankenship said. “A few years ago along with his downhill running he would look to make a move and avoid contact but this year he has not stepped around a defender and looks to lower his shoulder for a few extra yards. He is capable of getting a 20 yard gain but also has the ability on fourth and short to get the first down.”
Bass has rushed for 2,445 yards in his injury shorted career, which has cost him 13 games. He has scored 29 touchdowns and averaged 6.7 yards per carry. He has thrown for 1,357 and 18 TD in 27 career games.