BY ZACK KLEMME
THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
RUSSELL Lee Evans didn’t seem surprised by Reed Galloway’s latest act of leadership, even if he might have disagreed with the sentiment.
As Galloway was being interviewed in Russell’s football coaches’ office on Tuesday afternoon, the Red Devils’ quarterbacks coach entered in search of an office chair for film study.
Evans overheard Galloway, Russell’s senior receiver and safety, take personal responsibility for the Red Devils’ season- opening loss to Greenup County and just shook his head, almost imperceptibly, as if to both respect the act and dissent from it.
Russell coach T.J. Maynard pointed to the response of Galloway and fellow senior receiver Jacob Thompson to being told the Red Devils didn’t plan to throw the ball against Bath County on Oct. 19 — which might ordinarily cause consternation for a receiver.
“They were fine; they were just happy we were winning,” Maynard recalled. “That just shows you the type of kid Reed is and what our team is right now. We don’t have guys that are all worried about who’s getting the stats, as long as we’re winning.
“Reed obviously has been a big part of our turnaround, not only with his play on the field, but his presence in the locker room.”
It’s that presence in the locker room with his teammates that has gotten Galloway through the most difficult experience of his life.
In January, Todd Galloway, the father of Russell’s top receiver in 2017 and one of the Red Devils’ most involved boosters along with wife Jennifer, was helping set up Russell’s annual postseason banquet when he had a medical episode. Maynard isn’t exactly sure what happened, only that Galloway had had surgery on his carotid artery a week or so before that.
Todd Galloway died on Jan. 26 at 51 at St. Mary’s Medical Center in Huntington.
Reed Galloway has understandably struggled with not having his dad around for his senior year.
“It’s tough,” Galloway said. “My dad was definitely one of my biggest supporters. After every game, he’d tell me, ‘We need to work on this,’ and we’d go out in the yard and he’d have me run routes outside and practice at home.”
Galloway’s teammates have been instrumental in his carrying on since then. He mentioned Thompson and Sean Smith as Red Devils who regularly stayed the night at his house to lift his spirits.
“They never left us alone,” Galloway said of his football family. “They always made sure we felt like we were loved, and without them, I don’t think I could’ve made it. They’re my brothers, and they’ve been with me every step of the way. They haven’t really stopped.”
Blocking it out
Back on the field, Galloway has served as a security blanket for Red Devils quarterbacks Grant Wilburn and Charlie Jachimczuk.
Often the No. 1 option downfield, Galloway has put up 275 receiving yards, 13 catches and four aerial TDs, leading the team in each category.
He’s also aided in the development of both Wilburn and Jachimczuk, “just talking to them about where to put the ball so that it’s in the best position to be caught,” Galloway said, “on the outside shoulder on Stick (route).”
Galloway admitted that any receiver “likes to make the big play; everyone likes the deep ball in the end zone,” but even as Russell has emphasized its ground game, especially in recent weeks, he’s still been an asset blocking downfield.
The Red Devils didn’t throw the ball once against Bath County in the de facto Class 3A, District 5 championship game on Oct. 19. They didn’t need to — seven Russell backs combined to rush 48 times for 334 yards and five touchdowns in a 42-6 whipping of the Wildcats. “Me and J.T. talked about it,” Galloway said, referencing Thompson. “We just felt like we were a spread-out part of the line out there blocking. We didn’t mind. We were winning, and we had to do what we had to do to get the job done.”
It didn’t escape the Red Devils, either, that some preseason media predictions projected Bath County as the district favorite.
“Winning the district, that was probably one of the happiest moments I’ve ever had in my life, singing the fight song at Bath County,” Galloway said, politely adding with a grin, “especially when — I mean no offense to y’all — doubting us. Everyone had them beating us in the district, but that was so good. One of the happiest moments of my life.”
That night was especially satisfying for Russell because of where the Red Devils started. They lost their first three games by an aggregate of 98-28, culminating in a 41-0 whitewashing at Ashland on Sept. 7 that probably could’ve been worse — that was also the score at halftime.
Galloway called that loss to the Tomcats “honestly one of the tougher games I’ve ever gone through.” Russell was 0-3 in his senior year. It was officially gutchecktime. “The first three weeks were definitely tough,” Galloway said, “all those rival games, getting hammered every game. But we just kept getting back out here watching film, and out on the field, as a team, we really came together. We said, ‘We really just have to play as one. We can’t let each other down; we have to pick each other up on the field.’” Maynard credited senior leadership — particularly from Galloway and Thompson — with keeping the season from going off the rails.
“Him and J.T. keep everybody loose,” the coach said. “They don’t get all tore up; they just control what they can control when they come to practice every day.”
Since the loss in Putnam Stadium, Russell has gone 6-1, winning the first six of those by averaging 45 points per game and allowing 4.5.
The joyride ended with a 14-7 loss to Raceland in the Rail Cities Bowl on Friday, but even that marked progress from the early-season stretch.
“Obviously went from, what, (losing) 49-0, Ashland to 14-7, Raceland, which is a big improvement,” Galloway said.
That progress has been largely fueled by Russell’s hard-hitting, disciplined defense. Galloway, a first-year starter at safety, has been a catalyst — after having only played spot duty at cornerback last season, he’s become the Red Devils’ second-leading tackler with 14 solo tackles and 12 assisted stops.
“He’s been very, very good on defense for us,” Maynard said. “He’s come a long way being physical. He’s been more involved in our run support as a safety.”
Galloway also makes defensive calls and diagnoses opponents’ formations from his safety spot. It was in that role he took responsibility for the Greenup County loss after the Musketeers completed some deep balls over the top of the Red Devils secondary.
Whether or not that was his fault, it’s spurred a greater emphasis on that role.
“After that game, I took it really upon myself to watch film, study the playbooks, listen to everything (Russell defensive coordinator) coach (Garry) Morris has to say,” Galloway said. “Charlie helps out now, he calls coverages, and if he sees something I don’t, he’s made a point to come over and get me and yell it out. We’ve just really improved on that.”
The end in sight
Having run the table in district play, Russell (6-4) hosts Thomas Nelson on Friday to begin the playoffs. The Red Devils are aiming for, at least, a region final showdown with state power Central.
As a senior, Galloway also knows that from this point forward, any game could be his last, after which he plans to attend the University of Kentucky and study biology.
“It’s exciting, but at the same time, it’s kinda sad,” he said. “Football’s been a huge part of my life, and my teammates have been there for me for everything ... it’ll definitely be a journey.”
A journey that, by its end, will be worth remembering.
“He’s come a long way,” Maynard said, “and I know his dad would be proud.”
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