Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local Sports

August 13, 2013

BREAKING CAMP: Running in Numbers

Johnson Central’s backfield trio enjoy piling up the yards


The Independent

PAINTSVILLE Last season, Johnson Central had the arduous task of replacing the state’s all-time leading rusher J.J. Jude.

The task ultimately fell to running backs Daymion Belcher and Jordan Young and fullback Josh Dillon. The trio ended up leading the Golden Eagles to a district title and a 9-3 record.  

But even with great team success, Johnson Central coach Jim Matney said he understands the pressure of following a record-setting back like Jude.

“People still say who is going to take J.J.’s place, even though he’s been gone for two years,” Matney said. “But I think they are each earning a name for themselves. I’m sure it’s great pressure, but it doesn’t seem to bother them.

“I don’t think the kids think about following J.J.’s footsteps as much as they think about their own legacy and the legacy of the team.”

Each back stepped up to the challenge in 2012. Belcher led the trio, rushing over 1,500 yards, while Young put up 1,200 and Dillon came a just few yards short of eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark.

While each of them put a personal mark on last season, Belcher admitted there are still comparisons to Jude.

“I felt a little pressure,” Belcher said. “It’s tough when everyone wants you to be just as good as him. So I just go out and try to think that I can be better.”

Following Jude was pressure enough but, since Matney took over the program a decade ago, expectations for Johnson Central running backs have been set high.

It seems after their performance last year, Matney has a reason to have those high expectations again.

“We’d be disappointed if we didn’t have three 1,000-yard rushers,” Matney said. “We just try to take what the defense gives us. And having those three makes us a little harder to stop. If (the opposing team) comes out and says, ‘Tonight we’re going to stop Belcher,’ then you’ve got two more 1,000-yard rushers to go to in Young and Dillon.

“It’s good to have those threats. The last two years we’ve been young and we’ve been building up for this.”

Each of those threats brings something different. Belcher has the complete back build with a good mix of speed and strength. In Young, there is the classic speed back who builds up his quickness in the offseason as an All-State wrestler. Dillon takes all the punishment, and is also a threat to break a long run at any time.

“I feel like any of us can get a first down or a touchdown,” Young said.

“Or break free for a 50-yard touchdown,” Belcher added. “All of us have that kind of ability.”

While all three couldn’t be blamed for taking credit for their accomplishments, they all quickly voiced the two key aspects to the Johnson Central offense.

Those two things were Matney’s offensive scheme (the “belly” offense) and the Golden Eagles reloading at offensive line each year.

“I think the yards just come with the offense,” Dillon said. “We have a good line and our system gets a 1,000-yard rusher every year. If you just follow your blockers, you’re guaranteed a first down every time you touch the ball.”

“We’re averaging pretty good size-wise,” Young said about the line. “We run for the yards, but there wouldn’t be any yards without them. We owe it to them.”

Even though the spotlight will be on Belcher, Young and Dillon, Matney pointed out that there are younger guys behind them who could step up and put up big yards too.

He added that he wouldn’t be surprised to see the three junior varsity backs become 1,000-yard rushers soon.

“We got three junior varsity running backs that are going to be pretty darn good too,” Matney said. “Conner Ratliff and Bryce Skaggs are tremendous young running backs and they will see some playing time this year. We have a good group coming up.”

Matney believes he’s going to need all the help he can get for this season, which consists of what he describes as one of the hardest schedules in the state.

Matchups on the docket include trips to Ashland, Belfry and Ironton and a home game against Harlan County, which returns most of a team that went to the KHSAA Class 5A state semifinals.

“This has to be one of the most challenging schedules in the state,” Matney said. “That’s our daunting task. Our program has come a long ways, but this is a big task for us.”

But the backfield trio all agreed — no matter how hard the schedule, the goal is the same: Make a run to state.

“I think we can make a good run at state this year but it’s going to be tough,” Dillon said.  

“We want to beat Highlands,” Belcher said about the six-time defending Class 4A state champions. “Everyone says we can’t but Ashland stayed with them for a half (last year) and we beat Ashland ... so you never know.”

KYLE HOBSTETTER can be reached at khobstetter@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2658.

Text Only
Local Sports
  • MARK MAYNARD: Looking for those who inspire

    Inspirtation, they say, comes from within. It is defined as an inspiring or animating action or influence.

    July 22, 2014

  • 0722KYPGA_152.jpg Jones tops Gillum in playoff at Eagle Trace

    Ashland senior golfer Logan Jones didn't shoot his average Monday.
    He didn't mind.
    His three-over par 75 and one-hole playoff win over Elliott County junior Ryan Gillum gave him the Boys Open division title in the Kentucky PGA Junior Tour stop at Morehead State University's Eagle Trace Golf Course.

    July 21, 2014 6 Photos

  • 102213_329a.jpg Raceland tabs Clark as new girls basketball coach

    Jason Clark has a reputation of being — to use his word — “passionate” on the Raceland volleyball sideline.
    He plans to bring that same approach as the Lady Rams’ new basketball coach.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0305region2_389.jpg Pass the Mayo: East sophomore PG, Lady Raiders preparing for winter run

    East Carter sophomore point guard Kristen Mayo has played basketball for as long as she can remember.

    July 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • 0718spinda.jpg Steelers super fan Spinda to be recognized in Florida

    Shawn Spinda doesn’t have to use speech to profess his passion for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
    All it takes is a quick glance for a person to get the picture.
    But to absorb the whole picture, you’ll need to clear your schedule.
    Spinda is one of several fanatics who will be recognized at the Sports Fans Conference in Orlando, Florida, which is set for Aug. 28-Sept. 1 at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort. He is a “What a Fan” NFL Fan of the Year nominee.

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0703rfLL0204.jpg Little League State Baseball: Ready to run

    Morehead 11- and 12-year-old All-Star baseball manager Toby Gardner collectively likened his team to a racehorse.

    July 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0717prokick1.jpg Prokicker.com camp Eleven Ashland Tomcat football players were part of the Ray Guy Prokicker.com camp at Huntington High. The high-profile camps are put on all over the country. Rick Sang, an Ashland native who befriended Guy 20 years ago, is the camp's founder.

    July 16, 2014

  • 0716fbpractice0105.jpg Four-down territory: Making summer football practice pit stops

    The popular Monday night catchphrase filled my room on Tuesday morning as my new alarm sounded off at 7 a.m.

    July 16, 2014 5 Photos

  • 0716softball.jpg KHSAA pushes presence of masks

    Fairview’s Sydney Ekers and Lewis County’s Kelsey Rizzo didn’t wear masks to play softball until after they were struck in the face by line drives.
    The Kentucky High School Athletic Association has made a recommendation that it hopes will reduce such instances.

    July 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • LOCAL SPORTS BRIEFS: Ellis on 'leave' for Fairview volleyball

    Lauren Ellis is stepping aside as Fairview’s volleyball coach for this fall in order to complete coursework on her master’s degree, she said Tuesday.

    July 16, 2014