First-year Botetourt head coach Jamie Harless had a two-minute drill ready to pull out of his back pocket.
Running back Chris Thompson ruined it. Junked it. Shredded it.
Eighty yards from the end zone, Thompson took a handoff. Then another. Then a third. In just three plays and 52 seconds, the game was tied.
Botetourt eventually won 38-32 in double overtime on Thompson’s fifth touchdown.
“That’s probably one of the most impressive things I’ve ever seen in a football game,” Harless said. “You’re sitting there thinking, ‘We need to throw to get this thing tied up.’ Then he goes through the middle of the forest knocking down trees.”
The Botetourt bulldozer is ready for more in 2013.
Thompson, a 5-foot-10, 210-pound senior, is Timesland’s leading returning rusher after gaining 1,538 yards on 290 carries during the 2012 regular season. Counting Botetourt’s 23-0 loss to William Byrd in the first round of the Region III Division 4 playoffs, Thompson had 314 carries for 1,610 yards.
What’s in store in 2013? A 2,000-yard season? Even more rushing attempts?
“That’s a lot of yards,” Thompson said. “I don’t want to carry it as much as I did last year. It took a big toll on me. I hurt my shoulder and my ankle at about the midpoint of the season. I didn’t miss any games, but it definitely took a toll on my body.”
Thompson doesn’t care about personal statistics. However, he is aware that Botetourt’s only playoff victory was in 1984, a void he would like to fill this season.
“It’s been quite some time,” Thompson said. “I’d like to have a good pass game to go along with a good run game. I definitely think the pass game is going to get us further this year.”
Harless was an assistant coach at Cave Spring in 2011 when running back Sam Wright piled up 2,789 yards on a whopping 407 carries in 13 games.
Last year in Harless’ run-oriented power system, Thompson opened the season with 250 yards on 28 carries against James River and followed that with 42 rushes for 270 yards in a victory over Staunton River.
Thompson’s top effort was a 44-carry, 173-yard night in a 16-14 upset of Blue Ridge District co-champion Rockbridge County. He carried the ball 14 times on Botetourt’s final drive that took 10 minutes to cover 51 yards, punctuating it with a TD and a game-winning two-point conversion with 1:06 to play.
“When you want to win at the fair, you bring your prize pony,” Harless said. “In his case, prize horse.”
Going the distance runs in Thompson’s family. His grandfather was a long-haul truck driver. His father, George, drives the big diesel now.
However, George Thompson is remembered more for his exploits as a basketball star at James River, leading the Knights to the 1990 VHSL Group A championship game and earning a scholarship from Bluefield College.
“I can’t really find any film on him,” Chris Thompson said. “I’d like to. But I’ve heard the stories about the things he could do. Everybody talks about how he could jump, a 40-inch vertical I think.”
Botetourt opens the 2013 season Aug. 30 at James River, a big game for Thompson and his father, who obviously has split allegiances.
“I think he’s on the Botetourt side most of the time,” Thompson said. “Most of the time he’s just sneaking around. I can’t really even know where he is. He’s more of a quiet guy. He definitely gets a lot of grief on why I’m not going down there.”
Harless is happy the red jersey Thompson will wear this year includes an “LB” logo.
“To me, Chris is the kind of kid you can build your offense around,” Harless said. “When you’ve got Chris sitting in the backfield, there’s a whole lot of other space where the defense says, ‘Man, we’ve got to play that guy in the box and we’ve still got to be there.’ When you’ve got to be able to be up and back and you’re not sure where you’re supposed to be, it makes it tough on a defense. He’s very similar to Sam Wright.”
Botetourt assistant coach Don Holter, who works with the Cavaliers running backs, is just as impressed by Thompson’s attitude as he is by the senior’s ability.
“I knew the kid had some talent,” Holter said. “But it’s his humbleness, his energy, his work ethic really motivates the kids around him.
“A lot of kids, or adults, who rushed for [1,610] yards might not be as receptive to that. But he wanted to be coached. It wasn’t, ‘I’m good enough,’ but ‘I can get better.’ ”
Thompson already has made some changes under Holter’s tutelage.
“Coach Holter is a tough coach to play under, but he knows what he’s doing,” Thompson said. “He’s teaching me stuff I’ve never known about, how to be a complete back. It’s not just running. It’s catching. It’s blocking. It’s being able to see where cuts are.”
Player and coach already have employed some give-and-take.
During a recent practice, the Botetourt assistant was teaching Thompson how to spin away from contact and continue upfield.
“He said, ‘Coach, no disrespect, but we run people over here,’ ” Holter said. “End of the drill.”
Thompson, who gained 513 yards in 2011, is one of two Botetourt seniors who will be a three-year starter this year.
He’s bigger, faster, stronger and smarter.
“I lost some fat and gained some muscle,” he said. “I’ve gotten a lot quicker. This year I hope to be more of a balanced back. Instead of trying to run people over, get in the open field a little bit.”
Ultimately, Thompson will just do his job.
“He’s tough as nails,” Harless said. “He’s all in for his teammates. He’s a 100 percent, all-in guy.”
Robert Anderson | 981-3123
Saturday, August 10, 2013