WINFIELD, W.Va. - Sure, potential all-state running back David Gaydosz had just transferred to Cabell Midland, but optimism was buzzing all around Winfield's preseason training camp last year.
Then Colt Richardson went down, and everything changed.
Richardson, a swift running back-defensive back who had seen extensive playing time as a sophomore, was being counted on to share carries for the 2012 Generals with bullish fullback Seth Lewis. Richardson, however, tore an ACL and MCL in practice less than two weeks before the regular season and was lost for the year.
That was part of a chain reaction of bad news for first-year Winfield coach Craig Snyder, as injuries to linemen Garrett Grafton and Wes Barrett and the departure of Gaydosz served to hamstring the Generals, who finished 4-6 in their first season in the difficult Mountain State Athletic Conference.
"The day Colt went down,'' Snyder said, "the guys' mood - even the next day - was really down at practice: 'Gosh, not something else.' We went through a lot of injuries people didn't see. It was one thing after another, but the one with Colt really got them.''
It got Richardson down, too.
"It was devastating,'' Richardson said. "I couldn't play the rest of the season. Physically, it hurt a lot, and I had to get over that, but mentally I had to work a lot to get back to where I was.''
Richardson had surgery last September and underwent six months of grueling therapy, all geared toward one thing - getting him ready for his senior season.
Well, that time is now, and Richardson is finally back with his friends and teammates on the practice field at the Putnam County school - just a year later than he'd have liked.
"It feels good to be back,'' Richardson said Wednesday after Winfield's two-a-day workouts. "I haven't had much trouble. There's a few pains here and there, but I've worked through that.''
Even if Richardson hasn't returned to 100 percent health yet, just having him on the practice field is paying dividends for the squad.
"He's done well,'' Snyder said. "He struggles with some soreness and there are little issues going on, but the guys like him so much and look up to him so much that it really affects the morale of the team, just him being out there. It's amazing.
"I'm excited that he's back. He's worked really hard. Physically, he looks good and moves well on the field. He deserves good things to happen to him for what he's been through and how hard he's worked.''