Black Mountain – Charles D. Owen High School’s new head coach Brint Russell is a Warhorse alumnus well versed in the program’s intensity and drive.
Owen passed its way to winning ways with Nathan Padgett as head coach and star dual-threat quarterback Caleb Scott for the past two seasons. Scott now plays for Western Carolina. Padgett coached Owen for the last six seasons. He is now the athletic director at area powerhouse A.C. Reynolds. A new chapter begins in Black Mountain Friday, Aug. 27 when Owen hosts Chase to start its season.
The Warhorses make playoffs if they simply beat Madison at home in the regular-season finale Oct. 29. Those are the Western Highland Conference’s only 2A teams now that Heritage downsized to 1A. Madison comes off of two winless seasons while Owen was 7-5 and then 4-3.
Another Warhorse alumnus leads the stable. Russell is a 1997 OHS grad. He played tight end and linebacker for legendary Kenny Ford. “Physicality, passion and pride” are the three P’s that Russell stresses in his players. “I’m a conservative coach. I say ‘don’t turn the ball over. Run the ball, control clock. Play good defense.”
Russell has 23 years of coaching experience. He was head coach at East Rutherford last season, his sixth year there. He was defensive coordinator for four years. He was an Owen assistant coach in 2014. That was Ford’s final season and a magical one at 12-1. Russell was a senior strategic in-game analyst.
“We have a proud and very rich tradition at Owen,” Russell said. “One day these players will tell their kids and later their grandkids about it. When you walk in here, nearly 20 conference championship plaques on the walls look you in the face.”
Ford was bigger than life. In a game in 1995 Russell was lining up on defense. “I hear ‘lucky, lucky, lucky!’ Kenny’s only three feet from me, calling the play! I reminded him it’s not a scrimmage. You can’t be on the field.” The officials did not penalize Ford. Russell recalled Ford as literally hands-on in approach in a scrimmage. “Out of nowhere, someone scoops the (fumbled) ball up. It’s Kenny! He ripped his ACL on that play.”
Russell said, “You grow up with that passion. It’s in our culture.” Current center Brett Gaynor said Owen football means “putting your heart into sports.” Power runner Briggs Barker said, “You gotta be tough and gritty to play here.” Coach Russell said his Warhorses “give us the best they have.” Several players said Russell trains them hard but is friendly encouraging when running into them in school.
A quarterback time share is between Eli Lanter (5-11, 165 sr.) and Alex Sanchez (5-10, 160 jr.). Lanter was Scott’s understudy. He is a more “fluid runner” than Sanchez, Russell said. “Eli is smart, heady, a leader. Alex is more athletic. He can throw the ball better. We’ll definitely use both” — taking turns at QB with the other as a back.
Sanchez sees a strong “team effort” overcoming Scott’s departure. Lanter reasons “we’re still going to score (many) points. We’re smaller. So we have to be more strategic, and do it more with finesse rather than brute strength” that burly Scott had in scrambling.
“We’ll still rely on the run, and play-action passing,” Russell said. Barker (6-1, 190 sr.) “can tote the mail” as workhorse Warhorse runner. “Bridge will get his head down” to plow ahead. He also “has good vision to bounce outside.” Barker said Coach Russell tells him to gain at least four yards — even if initially hit in the backfield. Sanchez is a RB.
Athletic Cadyn Cook (5-11, 160 sr.) is one of the two slot backs deployed wide or in close. Lanter is the other when not the QB. They get handoffs, pitches and passes. Wide receivers are Hudson Minks (6-0, 130 so.) and Will Shaw (5-9, 170 sr.).
Warhorse blockers are all nimble seniors who Russell said “like driving people out of the way.” They are lanky LT Peyton Rickard (6-6, 200 sr.), LG-TE Orion Angus (6-0, 190 sr.), Gaynor (5-11, 210 sr.), RG Sidney Stone (5-8, 190 sr.) and RT Jarrett Tweed (6-0, 215 sr.).
Kicker Emil Rathscheck (6-0, 165 sr.) moved in from Germany. His field goal range is about 40 yards.
The multiple defenses has a 3-4 base. “We’re a multiple ‘cover two’ team” with two deep safeties versus spread passing foes, Russell noted. Look for stunting. “We won’t be stagnant and sit around.”
“We’re a good tackling team,” Coach Russell predicts. “We’ll play matchups — our quicker kids against teams that throw, and bigger kids (and five-men fronts) versus teams that run.” His primary goal for the team is steadily “getting better.”