Photo courtesy of Brad Davis, Atticus Goodson of the Register-Herald Independence ducks Bluefield defender Reginald Hairston November 26 in Coal City.

When Atticus Goodson showed up at Independence football training as a first-time player as a sophomore in 2019, he was unceremoniously greeted by being placed last on the depth chart at the ball. ball.

Like everything else, he took it as a challenge and ran with it.

And in some ways, it never stopped.

From the fifth string, running back Goodson climbed into the record books, finishing as the school leader in rushing yards (5,292 yards), touchdowns (83 total and 79 rushing), two-time first-team all-stater and earlier this week winner of the Warner Award as the state’s top running back.

After a season that saw Goodson rushing for 1,907 yards on 182 carries and 29 touchdowns, he capped off a storied career by being named the winner of the prestigious Kennedy Award as the state’s best player by the West Virginia Sports Writer’s. Association.

The 6-foot-1, 230-pound senior averaged 190.7 yards per game and 10.5 yards per carry and rarely played in the second half of the Patriots’ first nine games.

But when he needed to carry the load, in the last three games of the season, he was ready, with 80 carries in those games.

He added 776 yards and nine touchdowns in four playoff games.

“We didn’t really know what he could do” Independence coach John H. Lilly spoke about Goodson’s early days with the program. “I think he had played in the midget league. We knew he was a good athlete. But we didn’t know he was that kind of athlete. I guess it was after the Midland Trail game (during the 2019 season opener) when we said, “Oh, this kid is going to be special.” And you could see him growing on the football pitch in every game of the season.

Goodson’s jack.

“I saw it as a challenge, that I had to work on to improve myself”, he said.

Mission accomplished.

After rushing for 103 yards and a touchdown in his 2019 debut against a Trail team that would advance to the Class A semifinals that season, he would go over 200 yards in six of the final nine games that season and score 24 more. affected.

For the season, he rushed for 1,767 yards and 25 touchdowns and caught 19 passes for 342 yards and three other scores.

He was named captain of the Second Team Class AA All-State Offensive.

In a Covid-shortened 2020 season, Goodson rushed for 1,618 yards and 25 touchdowns and was an all-state first-team running back.

Four of the top eight players who voted for the Kennedy Award played in the Class AAA championship game. Huntington quarterback Gavin Lochow was second and teammate Noah Waynick was fourth. Unusually, Martinsburg brothers Hudson and Murphy Clement finished third and eighth respectively.

Spring Valley’s Ty Bartrum was fifth, Robert C. Byrd’s Jeremiah King was sixth and Berkley Spring’s Gavin Barkley was seventh.

For Goodson, finding out he had won the Kennedy was a great start to the holiday season.

“It’s definitely a great Christmas present,” Goodson said. “It’s one of the best I’ve received.”

He said he would return it for another shot at a state title, with no guarantees on the outcome, after Independence fell to Fairmont 21-12 in the state title game of class AA at Wheeling Island earlier this month.

“One hundred percent, just having a state championship under my belt would be the best thing in the world,” he said of the trade. “But it’s pretty good.”

Asked to describe his running style, Goodson said. “I run hard. I didn’t think anyone could tackle me and if you were in front of me you challenged me and I was going to make you pay for it.

Challenging himself was Goodson’s form of motivation.

His favorite run of the 445 carries he racked up during his career at Independence mirrors his description.

“It would probably be the one against Nicholas County (in 2020) when I armed that kid on the ground,” he said.

Everyone in the Independence program had a favorite Goodson moment — the A-Train’s greatest hits — from his on-the-move runs, like the one against Roane County in which he trailed a scrum of six or seven defenders. 10 meters more before being stopped (yet not tackled, a feature of the runner) at the fast starts which saw him score on the first play of a match on three different occasions.

One of his biggest plays this year has come on the defensive side of the ball. With added depth to the program, Goodson didn’t have to play full-time as a linebacker or defensive back, where he started in 2020. He was slotted into defense against Roane County, however, and he stopped his compatriot Briar Begler. at fourth-and-one after a block is discarded by a taller lineman.

“He’s just an athlete” Lily said. “He has some of the best hands on our team. I saw him kick 50 yards in practice. Some of our coaches think he could eventually become an NFL-caliber punter if he worked there. He can do anything.”

His calling card on the pitch is the physical. His business card off the field is in front. He is respected for his abilities in the field, appreciated for his behavior after the battle.

“I really never heard of an opposing coach who didn’t like him, I really never heard another kid say bad things about him” Lily said. “Even in the heat of the moment or after a bad loss, they get up and shake hands. He’s a different kind of kid and that’s probably what helped him deal with all the hype. He really doesn’t pay attention to it.

Like most notable running backs and number producers, Goodson has always gone out of his way to praise his offensive linemen.

Given a chance, he expanded the list.

“I’ve said my entire career that I want to thank my linemen a ton, but I’m going to thank my linemen and my wide receivers,” Goodson said. “Wide receivers do as much for me as linemen do. Linemen prevent (defenders) from reaching me early, but without wide receivers blocking the field, I would never go anywhere. So that’s a prize for me, the line and the wide receivers. It’s really the whole team. They made it all possible.

Of his 79 career rushing touchdowns, Goodson had many that went over 50 yards.

“We have several videos of us watching at my house running around the field and (his brother) Cyrus coming in and punching someone or Judah (Price) coming in and punching someone who was about to blindside me, or all of them, Cyrus, Trey (Bowers), Judah, run right by be just block,” Goodson said.

He was the all-state first-team offensive captain, winner of the Warner Award as the state’s top running back in the state, and now holds the award as the state’s top football player.

But his future is in the diamond and he’s committed to Walters State, one of the top JUCO baseball programs in the nation.

His brother Cyrus is a first all-state teammate, his father John was an all-state lineman who was a Hunt Award finalist on the 1992 Fayetteville State Championship team and his uncle Chris Grose was a starting guard at Marshall. But baseball has always been Atticus Goodson’s plan.

“Since God decided to give me to my mother (Melissa, herself an All-State multi-athlete and a member of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame at Woodrow Wilson)”, Goodson said of his love of baseball. “When he decided to make me is when my love for baseball started. I came out of the womb ready to play baseball. It’s just a great sport.

But he was also good at football.

Even with a tackle in front of him, Goodson was rarely tackled in the end zone, and he entered the end zone with frequency, averaging just under three touchdowns per game. He has scored at least one touchdown in 26 of his 28 career games.

He also made a habit of handing or returning the ball to the nearest official after touchdowns, which caught on with his teammates.

“I just figured if it was me, I wouldn’t want to chase a ball because someone was celebrating when I was there doing a job.” he said.

In his career, Goodson has only been held under 100 yards three times, twice against Nicholas County in both games around the stiff arm game, and he was injured on both occasions.

The only time he had less than 100 yards came in his first meeting against rival Shady Spring, when he had just 35 yards on 13 carries.

He made up for that the rest of his career, with his two 300-yard games against the Tigers and he finished his career with 865 yards on 56 carries with 16 touchdowns in three games, including one in the playoffs last season. He’s averaged 15.4 yards per carry in those last three meetings.

Goodson finished his career with those two games over 300 yards, another 13 games over 200 yards, and another 10 over 100.

Five of the last six Kennedy Award winners have come from Class AA schools, including three running backs.

Goodson will be honored at the 75th Annual Victory Awards Dinner May 1 at the Embassy Suites in Charleston.

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