PHOTO: A big season is expected from dual-threat quarterback Caleb Jantuah (1) who last season accounted for nearly 2,000 total offensive yards and 18 touchdowns.
By Dave Morrison
RICHWOOD – During the off-season, following his team’s 3-7 record, Richwood football coach Gary Roach would often stop by some of his favorite community eateries, of which there are many, and he kept experiencing a strange phenomena.
“Some of the fans I talked to were satisfied with the three wins,” Roach said. “It turns out that it was the third best record we’d had there in the last 20 years.”
It’s true, aside from an undefeated season (and 12-1 finish in 2009) and two 6-4 records, one in 2017 during a playoff season, 3 wins represented the most wins since 1998.
However, weighed against expectations, including those of the coach, 3-7 was an abject failure. When considering the start, it was a huge accomplishment.
The team lost Jeremiah Johnston (who had 2,584 yards and 26 touchdowns in the last two years, in 16-and-a-half game, including back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons) to a torn ACL before the season even began Then, on the first play of the season, quarterback Caleb Jantuah galloped 40 yards and near the end of the run attempted to hurdle a Webster player when he came down and a player rolled up on his ankle. It was an injury that would hamper him for a bulk of the season.
“We lost our best running back and our even though Jan stayed in the game he wasn’t right for the first half of the season,” Roach said. “One play into the season and we lost our two best offensive players.
Jantuah, an ultimate dual-threat quarterback, still threw for 1,082 yards and 11 touchdowns and ran for 854 and seven touchdowns. He had 117 carries, threw 136 passes). In his career Jantuah has rushed for 1,723 yards and 19 touchdowns, thrown for 2,083 yards and 27 touchdowns and caught 16 passes for 203 yards and three touchdowns.
He did lose a first-team all-state receiver in Michael McGee.
“I don’t think he will come close to 50-50 (run-pass) this year,” Roach said. “He’s going to be our main ball carrier. It’s not a secret. Everybody knows it.”
When you talk Richwood, you have to talk size.
The Lumberjacks feature two Lumberjack-like linemen in 6-foot-3, 355-pound junior Josh “Tater” Hypes and 6-3, 350-pound Isaak Stearns. Last season the duo started at the two tackle spots, but at about midseason Roach moved them side to the two guard spots.
“That was the first game that Jantuah really took off,” Roach said. “Moving them inside let us use them in way to better utilize their skills.”
Josh Landreth (6-1, 240), Tyler Workman (5-10, 220) and rising sophomore Jakob Hanna (6-1, 275) are also probable on that line.
Former lineman Doye Ward (5-11, 230) will be in the backfield for the second year, giving the Lumberjacks potential to put a lineman like Hypes in the backfield for a dangerous big package for short-yardage situations.
Roach said he expects that Hypes will begin to make a name for himself this season.
Roach said he won’t settle for anything short of the postseason this year.
“No excuses, if we don’t make it to the playoffs this season it will be a disappointment,” Roach said “I know we have had some injuries in the past. I know that we play a tough schedule, but a lot of teams play a tough schedule. I think we have a team that is capable fo making the playoffs. If we are healthy our expectations are the playoffs.”
Roach has been around Nicholas County sports his whole life, and was the ball boy for the undefeated Richwood basketball team in 1999.
He jokingly calls himself the “ultimate traitor.”
“In high school I went to Nicholas County but I lived in the Richwood area,” said Roach, who had five 200-yard rushing games his senior year. “When I got out of college, I lived in Summersville but I came to Richwood coach. I still jokingly get a lot of (grief) from people from time to time.
The Lumberjacks will open the season Aug. 28 at Webster County.