By Dave Morrison, For the WVSWA
There was something different in the air the night Judah Price and the Independence Patriots went to Wyoming East for what would surely be another clock-turning blowout over a Coalfield Conference opponent.
But the game was a sidebar to the lead story as the Patriots’ Price was only 18 points from setting a new state record for points scored in a regular season.
Ironically, in 1978, just seven miles down the Guyandotte River at Pineville High School, Curt Warner set the record with 263 regular-season points before going on to become an All-American at Penn State and an All-Pro with the Seattle Seahawks.
Poca’s Patriotic-sounding Ethan Payne, once a Warner Award winner himself, later broke the record with 276 points in 2019.
With Price setting at 258 points, something was up at Wyoming East on the chilly late October night.
The joint was packed, each one of Price’s carries bringing more of a buzz.
“It was a different feeling,” Price said, recalling the night. “There was a good bit of people down there to see me break the record. The support was crazy. Being down there the air felt different to be honest.”
Sitting nearby was Chandler Johnson, who transferred from Wyoming East and started at middle linebacker on the Patriots’ state championship team this season. He couldn’t resist.
“It is,” Johnson said of the air at East. “It’s very dusty on that field.
In fact, it was rarified air and Price was the one kicking up dust that night. He wasted little time, getting the record out of the way in the first quarter, even though he had to do it twice after the first time he set the mark was nullified by penalty. The record setter kicked off fireworks over the field from the road above the field.
Price finished the night with 42 points in little over a half of action, giving him the new record of an even 300 points.
Not only did Price top Payne that night but now joins him as a recipient of the Curt Warner Award, given to the state’s top running back by the West Virginia Sports Writer’s Association. He also joins former teammate Atticus Goodson who won the award last year.
Price would go on to break the state’s 100-year overall scoring record of 359 yards set by Elkins’ Albert “Big Sleepy” Glenn. He accomplished that feat in the Class AA quarterfinal win against Fairmont Senior. Price, dubbed “Donut Man” for his habit of giving his linemen donuts after games this fall, finished with 396 points for the season.
It was not only a record-setting year, but a state championship year to boot for Independence, which went 13-0 and beat Herbert Hoover 42-7 in the Class AA state championship game earlier this month, the school’s first state championship.
Price and his offensive line led the way, breaking all the school’s season rushing records established by Goodson last season.
He rushed for 2,587 yards in just 13 games, with 49 rushing touchdowns, 52 total touchdowns and what is thought to be (though no records exist) a state record 42 two-point conversions. He also caught nine passes for 195 yards and two touchdowns.
Price had five games with over 200 yards rushing and had seven games with four or more rushing touchdowns. Against rival Shady Spring he had 257 yards and six rushing touchdowns and caught a touchdown pass, finishing with 56 points, six points off Sistersville’s Jeff Swisher’s game record of 62 set in 1986 against Frontier, Ohio.
“We knew Judah was special when he got here,” coach John H. Lilly said. “He was just behind the Kennedy Award winner (Goodson) and he had to wait his turn (to start at running back). He was always on the field anyway (starting in the slot and on defense at safety). Here is a kid who was good enough to start at any other school and he never complained, never said a word, or did anything but try to help the team win.”
In the playoffs Price rushed for 764 yards, 11 touchdowns and nine 2-point conversions.
He saved the best for last.
In the state championship win against Hoover, Price rushed for a Super Six record 376 yards and set the record for longest run from scrimmage with a 94-yard gallop on the Patriots first possession of the second half.
At the end of the season Price was named the captain of the Class AA all-state first-team offense.
Teammate Atticus Goodson set the blueprint for Price when he won the Warner Award and the Kennedy Award last season. The winner of the Kennedy Award will be announced later this week.
“One-hundred percent,” Price said. “Knowing that he could do it, and with the line we had coming back, I personally felt like I could do it. Winning (the Warner) honestly means everything to me because I’m not a big guy and because of my size people underestimate me. I take that as a challenge. Being the best running back in the state means you don’t have to be big to be good.”
The 5-foot-8, 170-pound Price, also a wrestler with Division I potential in that sport, says the line, which did the heavy lifting, deserves the bulk of the credit.
“Honestly, I think these guys deserve all these honors more than I do,” he said after winning MVP of the Class AA state championship game.
The corps of that line, Logan Isom, Brady Grimmett (both first team all-staters), Aaron Shiflett, Parker Withrow and Fisher Williams featured four classmates of Price who have now blocked for two Warner Award winners. Only Williams was a junior.
Of all the awards he has accumulated over the season, something else stands out to Price.
“How much support I got throughout my team and the whole state to be honest,” Price said. “Everybody supported me the whole way through breaking the scoring records and the other records I broke. It’s meant a whole lot putting this town (Coal City) on the map and letting everybody know what Independence is really like.”
Other players considered for the Warner award included Jeremiah Riffle of Hurricane, Ty Nickell of Greenbrier West, Zach Rohrig of Bridgeport, Lorenzo Ferrera of Wheeling Central and Gage Wright of Parkersburg South.
Price will be honored at the WVSWA Victory Awards Dinner May 7 at the Embassy Suites in Charleston.