Capital Cougars support teammate through difficult time
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Though Capital safety James Richmond will miss one person cheering for him in the stands, he'll have a whole team to support him when the Cougars take on Martinsburg this weekend.
A four-year starter for the Cougars, James is a team player, head football coach Jon Carpenter said. It was the team that brought him back after he took a break from football earlier this year.
James missed five games early in the season after his father, Jamie Richmond, died in September at the age of 46. His death came just days after James' 18th birthday.
James said his father, who played football at DuPont High School and later West Virginia State College, had been ill, but his death was unexpected.
The two were close, and the elder Richmond, he said, helped him hone his football skills. James said that though his father was sick, he tried to make it to every game he could. Cold weather games were particularly hard on him.
His death left James saddened and with a lot on his mind.
"It was a lot of stuff running through my mind; everything was crazy," James said of his decision to leave. "It was tough. Big loss."
The teen had two injuries already this year and was dealing with the stresses of his final year of high school when he lost his father. Carpenter said James was overwhelmed and that it was starting to show.
The coach said in his first attempt at "tough love," he told James he needed to "fix it" and deal with his issues or leave the team. James left the team.
His teammates were supportive the entire time, he said. Several came to his father's funeral. But it didn't stop there, he said.
They called and came by his Charleston home to talk with him and to make sure he was OK. They told him they missed him and wanted him back on the field. He spent two weeks away from the team before deciding to return.
"My team needed me and I needed them," James said. "I have people on this team I can talk to about it and know that they're here for me. I'm here for them as well."
He's played several positions and often on both sides of the ball. At the beginning of the year, he played running back on offense and safety on defense. His absence meant some shifting around for the players.
Several teammates stepped up while he was absent. Junior Kashaun Haley, who ranks among the state's leaders for carries and touchdowns, shifted into the running back position along with freshman Silas Nazario, James' cousin.
Sophomore Logan Priddy stepped up on defense and played safety. He's proud of their performances on the field.
"It was great," James said. "I love to see people do good."
Carpenter thought James hated not being on the field with the team. James earned a second chance with his teammates when he came back, the coach said.
He also found a home in the position of safety, though Carpenter said he has volunteered to play any position where someone was needed.
"These guys are a pretty tight family out there," Carpenter said. "He didn't want that to be over. He lost someone important in his family and didn't want to lose his other family."
He said he thought the death of James' father showed James how many people cared about him and how important he is.
"He's one of the most special people I've ever been around," Carpenter said. "He's someone we expected great things out of ever since he came up in ninth grade. Whatever he does for the rest of his life, I think he's gonna be great."
James wants to go to West Virginia University but isn't sure yet what he wants to study.
James will get the chance to practice in Morgantown today as the Cougars will practice at WVU's Caperton Indoor Facility, the Mountaineers' indoor practice area. The No. 3-ranked Cougar football team takes on the second-seeded Martinsburg Bulldogs at Martinsburg High School.
The Bulldogs have lost one game all season and have won a record 14 consecutive playoff games. According to Daily Mail archives, the team hasn't lost to an in-state opponent at Martinsburg since Hurricane in the first round of the 2005 playoffs.
Capital, which also has lost only one game this season, hasn't appeared in the Class AAA semifinals since 1999 when the Cougars lost to Riverside High's inaugural Warrior team.
James said the team has been in the playoffs once in his four years on the team. He said he's excited for the game and that he believes the team is ready. Kickoff is at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Martinsburg High School.
"He set the example that if you put the team first, great things will happen for all of us," Carpenter said. "I think that's the legacy he'll leave behind. What he's gone through and the transformation he's made will be something we tell here for years to come."
Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at email@example.com or 304-348-4850.