More than 21/2 seasons after Chance Knox started playing varsity football, Capital seems to have found a perfect spot for him.
That would be at running back, where he has lined up the last four games after previously playing his entire career at wide receiver.
The shifty Knox scooted for 154 yards and three touchdowns on 10 carries in last week’s 45-21 first-round playoff win at Wheeling Park, putting the Cougars into the Class AAA quarterfinals at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Spring Valley.
Knox, who has committed to VMI as a wideout, hasn’t forgotten about that phase of the game, either, as he also caught seven passes for 89 yards against Park.
In four games since the move, Knox has carried 30 times for 314 yards and four touchdowns. For the season, he also leads Capital in receptions with 46 for 507 yards and six more scores and doubles as a dangerous punt returner.
“He’s just a playmaker,’’ said Capital coach Jon Carpenter. “We’ve got to get the ball in his hands however you can do it. I think obviously [the move] was good for us because he can make big plays.’’
An 85-yard scoring run by Knox late in the third quarter helped the Cougars gain a safe cushion last week. He said breaking into the open on a running play is a bit of an unusual feeling, but he’s getting used to it.
“It’s hard,’’ he said, “because I’m used to running shorter-type routes, and they’ve got to get me the ball quick. But it feels good. I like it, getting in that open field and getting to see where I should cut.’’
Knox’s development as a runner gives Capital a thunder-and-lightning combination in the backfield, as senior Tay Calloway remains the team leader in tackle-breaking runs, gaining 822 yards with 12 TDs this season.
“They complement each other back there,’’ Carpenter said. “Hopefully, we can keep that going.’’
Carpenter said the moving Knox was a nod toward helping some of his youthful offensive linemen get a better feel for the game, and to energize the offense.
“We’re still pretty young there,’’ Carpenter said of his O-line, “and we’ve got some freshmen playing there. We had to change what we do a little bit, to make us better in the future, too, running some different plays. We’re used to being a lot bigger than most people, and we used to run one, two plays. But it’s not going to be like that every year, so we kind of changed a little bit.’’
Even Carpenter has changed his stance in recent weeks, admitting that his rants earlier this season about a lack of safe and quality preseason practice time at University of Charleston Stadium might have become a distraction for his team. UC Stadium was being fit for a new track over the summer, making for construction issues, and damage from a late-June tornado didn’t help matters, either. Many days, Capital was forced to hit the road and practice at DuPont Middle School.
“I’ve done a terrible job this year — for two years — of feeling sorry for myself and crying about not practicing,’’ Carpenter said. “It’s still wrong, and someone will answer at the pearly gates for it, but I told them [last] week I’ve responded to some of those things wrong, and I think what we’ve done is build on loving each other and having fun. I think I’ve lost that along the way, about being so mad with the things that people do to you. I cried about it, and didn’t handle it right.
“So that was the message all week: Love each other, and play hard and good things will happen. We’ve played hard, and that’s the secret. I wish I could tell you it was the play-calling or something like that.’’