FORT VALLEY — About midway through the season, Chad Campbell had a conversation with running back Travis Richmond.
The Peach County head coach told the junior that he would need take his game to another level for the Trojans’ offense to reach its full potential. That conversation, and the play of his fellow running backs, motivated Richmond to make a bigger impact on a weekly basis. Since then, Richmond has been an integral piece of an explosive Trojans’ offense that will take the field tonight against Eastside in the GHSA Class AAA semifinals.
“He’s just been a different ballplayer over the past six or seven games,” Campbell said. “We talked about stepping it up, and he has responded well. He saw how well the other guys were playing, and it motivated him, I think.”
Luke Crowell led the team in rushing for much of the season. Despite having only around 100 carries, he managed to score 17 touchdowns. Crowell, who serves as the short yardage back most of the time, was getting nearly all of the rushing touchdowns for the team. Another running back, LeBrandon Johnson, has rushed for close to 500 yards to with seven touchdowns.
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But it was just after the midway part of the season that Richmond starting breaking long runs. He was finishing off the runs for touchdowns, and he was making the most of his chances. The Trojans rotate four running backs, so carries don’t come regularly even when a back is riding a hot streak.
“I think 17 is the most carries he has had in a game,” Campbell said. “We sprinkle the load across four backs. We try to keep (Richmond) fresh. He’s not big, but he’s a strong and tough kid.”
The coaches have been cautious with Richmond, too, because he has battled ankle injuries. He never really stayed healthy last season, and an early ankle tweak this year had the coaches concerned again. But it wasn’t nearly as bad as last season, and Richmond, who once battled for the Trojans’ quarterback job, is now healthy.
That has been apparent in the playoffs. Richmond has found another gear since the postseason began. He has rushed for 342 yards and three touchdowns in the three Peach County wins. Most remarkable is Richmond’s 14.3-yards-per-carry average in the playoffs, which is up from an already impressive 7.9 average during the regular season. Richmond has rushed for 902 yards and nine touchdowns to go with more than 300 receiving yards for the season.
“We have an offense full of playmakers,” Richmond said after a playoff win over Washington County. “When the coaches call on you, then you have to be ready.”
Richmond’s emergence mirrors the rise of Duranzo Brown during the Trojans’ two state championship runs.
Brown also sat in the shadows during the regular season before busting out for some big playoff games. He was also versatile like Richmond with his ability to contribute in the rushing and passing attacks.
“Duranzo did have some big games late in the season,” Campbell said. “Both guys are comparable, both have good feet, both are very quick. Richmond is stronger. He was second in the state in his weight-lifting class.”
Richmond’s versatility has given the offensive coaches plenty of freedom. He has lined up in different spots in the backfield and as a slot receiver.
“We always knew we wanted to get the ball in his hands,” Campbell said. “He has the ability to make big plays, and he has done that over the past few games.”