A lot has changed for the Chilhowie football program over the past four years, but one thing has remained consistent.
When the Warriors were 2-8 in 2015, who toted the rock?
Three years later, Sanchez is still the face of the Warriors back field.
Three years later, the Warriors are 13-0.
“It was a rough freshman year, then sophomore year we were a year older,” said Sanchez. “Junior year we were kind of expecting a good year, just not going all the way to the state finals. This year, we have high expectations.”
So far, the Warriors are right on schedule. Personally, for Sanchez, perhaps his biggest challenge in the playoffs thus far was in round two when Gabe Fiser and the Grundy Golden Wave came to Smyth County.
With the numbers Fiser had put up in Grundy during the season, many would probably tell you he was the best tailback in Class 1 among the southwest Virginia schools.
Sanchez wanted to prove otherwise.
And he did.
Behind Sanchez’s 201 rushing yards and three total touchdowns, Chilhowie moved past Grundy with ease in a 63-14 second round route of the Golden Wave.
The performance from Sanchez was enough to be named the CoalfieldSports.com Offensive Player of the Week for round two.
“I think our team came out fired up and wanted to step up to the challenge,” said the Chilhowie running back. “My offensive line came out and blocked like they have all year.”
The matchup with Fiser added an extra chip to the shoulder of the 5-foot-9, 195-pound tailback.
“That’s part of the competition of trying to out-do your opponent,” Sanchez stated. “No one was really giving our running game credit.”
If outsiders haven’t given credit to the Warriors running attack yet, they soon should before it smacks them in the face.
Sanchez has established the career rushing record for Chilhowie. It is a record that currently stands at 5,408 yards. The bruising tailback in the orange and black has rumbled for 1,784 just this season.
“I’ve put in a lot of hard work in preparing for each season,” Sanchez said. “My offensive lines have been amazing.”
Not only has the offensive line led the way for the tenacious runner, but he credits his coaches for much of his success.
“Our coaches put us in a position to succeed,” the senior tailback noted. “With all our experience, we also make a lot of changes during the game. It is like playing with coaches on the field.”
However, as Sanchez would be quick to tell you, it all starts at the top.
“Playing for Coach Robinson is awesome,” said Sanchez. “He gets into practice and gets fired up. He is also a great person because he will go out of his way to help one of his players.”
The type of success that Chilhowie has had to this point is unfamiliar. The Warriors are 13-0 for the first time in school history. For Sanchez, it is just a sign of what they have always wanted.
“It is a great feeling,” Sanchez said. “It just shows how much work we have put into it over the years.”
Unlike many kids in various small towns, Sanchez was not wrapped up in the Warrior teams of his youth.
“Chilhowie Football was not a lot to me when I was growing up,” said Chilhowie’s record setting back. “I went to a couple games though and couldn’t wait to play for them.”
However, now that he has become the face of Warrior football for years to come, the importance of Chilhowie football has done a 180 in his life.
“It is an amazing atmosphere,” said Sanchez. “I love when the community comes here on Friday’s. We are a family and we care for each other. It is always fun to be around the guys.”
As for the rest of the playoffs, Sanchez’s focus will not waiver. The bruising back realizes he must take the same approach to each game, just like he has the past four seasons.
“Our mindset for the playoffs is to not take any team lightly and play our best game,” he said.
I am a graduate of Richlands High School—class of 2014. In May 2018, I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Multimedia Journalism and History with a minor in war and Society from Virginia Tech.
My passions in life are numerous. We don’t have all day. This is not the place to divulge into Hokie Football, so I will shed some light on one of my other favorites.
I was born and raised in the coalfields of southwest Virginia—Richlands to be exact. I remember the first time I ever went to a high school football game (Richlands-Tazewell ’02). Since then, a passion has grown that is stronger than the current in the Clinch River. As a football player in this region, I was able to witness the passion oozing out of the hills firsthand. It was something that when I began college, people had a hard time believing the spectacle that is high school football in the coalfields. Luckily, I was able to go 42-8 in between the white lines on Fridays and Saturdays from 2010-2013. I look forward to having another platform to tell you my stories, your stories and their stories. Here’s to the good times and hoping I don’t leave you like I did Coach Greg Mance numerous times—by saying, “Gosh Durn It!”
Let’s talk, SWVA sports, Hokies, history or maybe even barbecue.