Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

September 5, 2012

Filling the shoes

Richlands’ Staten claims Player of the Week honors

RICHLANDS, Va. — Filling shoes is part of high school football. One player leaves and another takes his place.

Perhaps no one in the area has a larger task than Colton Staten at Richlands. All he had to do is replace Devon Johnson, the all-time leading rusher for the Blue Tornado, who is now a reserve linebacker at Marshall.

“I feel kind of a lot of pressure because Devon was an excellent player at Richlands and I have to fill big shoes for him,” Staten said. “I worked extremely harder than I did last year in the offseason because I knew Devon wasn’t going to be here and it was going to be my time.”

He had done just fine. So has the team, with Richlands off to a 2-0 start, having won 31 straight regular season games heading into Friday’s game at Richlands.

“I just worked great in the weight room all summer and I tried to encourage all my teammates to work harder because Devon wasn’t going to be here either,” Staten said.

Staten, a junior running back and linebacker at Richlands, led the Blue Tornado to a 32-30 win last Friday over Union, rushing for 197 yards on 22 carries, and also scored a pair of touchdowns from 3 and 67 yards. He also produced a few tackles against the Bears.

That performance enabled Staten to be selected as the Pocahontas Coal Association/Bluefield Daily Telegraph Player of the Week.

“He had an outstanding night, he broke tackles, I think on his first score they stopped him on the 2-yard line and he kept pushing four or five guys forward and getting in the end zone,” Richlands head coach Greg Mance said. “On the second score he broke it and showed great speed.

“He ran off and left everybody from Union High School, he broke for a (67) yarder and just ran off and left people.”  

Staten added, “It feels pretty great, I have never had this before. I was excited when Coach Mance told me and I appreciate it and it is an honor to have it.”  

The 5-foot-9, 200-pound Staten showed flashes of potential the two previous seasons, playing some at the varsity level as a freshman, and being the second leading rusher for Blues last year behind Johnson.

“I describe myself as a pretty good running back, but I try to work hard and be the best I can be,” Staten said. “I have enough speed, but I can do better...I am not the tallest guy out here, I compensate from my power, I have a lot of power in my legs, it takes a lot to bring me down.”

His running style reminds Mance of former Richlands standout Caleb Jennings, another small, but strong back who kept his legs churning, eventually leading the Blue Tornado to a state championship in 2006.

Normally a team that likes the spread offense, the Blues went into the ‘pistol’ formation against Union and let Staten run behind a huge offensive line that includes 6-foot-6, 315-pound James English, Joey Robinette and Zack Franklin.

“Colton broke tackles all night long, there were two or three times we thought he was down and here he comes shooting out of the pile,” Mance said. “He kinds of reminds you a little bit of Caleb the way Caleb used to run. He would hit that pile, you would think he was down and all of a sudden he would squirt out.

“He has great balance, great vision and he is just a tremendous tailback.”

That isn’t news to Mance. He saw potential in Staten as an eighth grader, and now everyone else is seeing what he knew. All Staten has done is run for 334 yards on just 34 carries in two games.

“We knew coming into this season he was going to have 20 to 25 carries per game and we were hoping he would average around 150 and he is above that now,” Mance said. “Our line is getting better and he will be the first to tell you that. We are working on his hands and getting him in the passing game a little bit more...

“He is just now reaching his potential, I think the best is yet to come.”

Staten, who had 137 yards on just 12 carries in the season opening win over Gate City, was Richlands’ second leading rusher behind Johnson last year, running for nearly 500 yards for an average of around 6.0 yards per carry.

“He has just got that innate ability to make you miss and then he does a great job,” Mance said. “If you watch him cut he keeps his shoulders parallel to the line of scrimmage so he doesn’t get his shoulders turned so he doesn’t lose any speed.

“He has great peripheral vision, he runs with power and he has gotten better and better each year and works extremely hard in the weight room so we are excited to have him on our team.”

The feeling is mutual for Staten, who loves playing for the Blue Tornado. His play was vital against Union when the Blues had to overcome 155 yards in penalties and three turnovers to pull out the win.

“It comes from my hard work and determination, and I tried to encourage all my teammates,” Staten said. “Even though we were being scored on and then we would score right back and then we would be scored on again, I just kept telling them ‘Come on, we can still do this’ and we ended up with a win.”

A quick look at Staten and you would imagine the junior hitting the books, not people. He has heard it all before.

“I get a lot about my age, some people think I am really young, like some people have told me I look like a freshman, but I am a junior,” Staten said.

His appearance hides a fierce competitor who loves the game enough to play both ways, also producing punishing hits on defense.

“I like to hit and I like adrenaline you get when you score a touchdown,” Staten said. “It is pretty hard (playing both ways), I have felt like I am going to throw up before, but I just kept going, I didn’t care.”

Mance agrees that looks can be deceiving when it comes to Staten.

“You want him on your side, he is nasty, he will run over top of you, he can run around you,” Mance said. “He has got great peripheral vision and he has got that ability to make that one cut, keeps his shoulders square and then he will split them and runs through them and he is hard to tackle.”

A lifelong resident of Richlands, Staten has worked diligently in the offseason, either in the weight room, in 7-on-7 competitions or at various camps trying to prepare for his chance to shine finally came.

He credits much of his development to taking advantage of playing time and using Johnson as a role model on how to play the position.

“It was pretty great, I loved it,” said Staten, of playing as a freshman. “I didn’t do that good, but it was a learning experience and it kind of helped...

“By watching (Devon) I learned about running a whole lot better in I have now and I get some of my talent probably from watching him a lot.”

Staten will display his talents and leadership ability in Bluefield on Friday when the Blue Tornado and Gray Baker play the G-Men. Staten will be a buddy for Baker — a quarterback at Graham last season — who will be the focus of much attention during the game.

“He is doing great for what he has to get through, he has a lot of pressure against him and it is hard for him, I know it is,” said Staten, who said Baker is hearing the verbiage from the other side.

“They’re already talking to him about it. I tell him all the time don’t worry about it, play with your pads, don’t play with your mouth.”

The goal ahead is the same as it always is in Richlands. Staten and the Blues want another trip to Lynchburg and a berth in the Division 3 state championship game.

“It is the heart of the team, we all have heart and the crowd keeps us going and all the coaches,” Staten said. “I think we could push it pretty far, I am thinking state.”

Staten’s time has come. He’s taking advantage of it.

“I appreciate all my coaches for giving me this opportunity,” Staten said. “I am not going to let them down.”

—Contact Brian Woodson


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