institute — The North-South Football Classic is littered with players who have been the leaders for their respective teams.

Kennedy Award winner Connor Neal produced a record-setting season en route to leading Fairmont Senior to the Class AA championship. Kalai Clark was a Huff Award finalist anchoring the defensive line for Class AAA semifinalist Capital.

Despite all the accolades, there’s a case to be made that nobody was asked to do more this past year than Meadow Bridge graduate Caleb Richmond.

Playing in Class A, the second-team all-state standout answered the call for the Wildcats early in the season after an accident depleted their backfield corps. The result was Richmond being regularly asked to carry the ball 35 times a game while also playing middle linebacker.

“He ran the ball 45 times against us,” Fayetteville head coach and South head coach Dave Moneypenny said. “They just kept giving it to him and we can’t even talk about what he did on defense.”

“He had 20-plus tackles on that side of the ball as well. For Meadow Bridge he never came off the field. Off topic, he caught a pass this and I’ve never seen Meadow Bridge throw a pass in five or six years, so he’s the complete package and a hard, hard worker. You can’t break his spirit.”

For Richmond, he never minded playing every snap and performing at an all-state level, but he also doesn’t mind having a lighter workload as he closes the book on football.

“I don’t mind it,” Richmond says. “I like getting to play and being on the field, but it’ll probably feel good to get a break. That and it’s going to be pretty hot Saturday.”

On top of a smaller workload, Richmond has enjoyed the week and all the activities it provides. From two-a-days to pool parties and bowling trips, he’s tried soaking in the experience, knowing it will likely be the last time he puts on the shoulder pads.

“This whole week has been a pretty good experience and I’m pretty excited about it,” Richmond said. “I probably won’t be doing as much, but I’ll get an opportunity to play one more game of high school football again. A lot of people are going to play in college, but for a lot of us, this is our last game.

“I’m really looking forward to getting to hang out with a lot of these guys I played against and getting to know them more. This is a good group of guys and I’ve competed against them a lot. I’m looking forward to more of that and the game on Saturday.”

In the game, the plan for Richmond is to have him help anchor the defense as a linebacker against a potent North offense that features Kennedy Award winner, QB Connor Neal. Despite his size — weighing 170 soaking wet — Moneypenny has little doubt Richmond can handle the rigors throw his way by Class AA and AAA’s best.

“Defensively is where we’re going to be utilizing him this week because he is a physical, rangy, no-fear kind of guys,” Moneypenny said. “And against the state’s best, that’s what we’ve got to have out there on that defense. It’s a lot of fun coaching him because of his attitude.”

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