MAROA — In an instant, Cade Culp was gone, hardly touched and never stopped.
It's no wonder the speedy Maroa-Forsyth sophomore running back is half of the "Thunder and Lightning" duo with fellow running back Bryson Boes. Culp happens to be the lightning portion of the rushing attack and struck late in the third quarter of Friday's home win against New Berlin for a 70-yard touchdown run, sprinting down the left sideline and handily winning a foot race against his defenders.
Culp, a 5-foot-7, 165-pounder, has the physical tools to cash in on big plays — he had 105 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries in a Week 1 win over Virden North Mac and had two carries for 70 yards against New Berlin. The rest of the recipe for success comes from the work he's put in for years. If he has a particularly bad day of practice, he hops on his bicycle — he's 15 years old without a driver's license — with cleats in his backpack and runs hills at Forsyth Park, just behind the pavilion.
“I’m just grinding and trying to get faster, squatting all the time and doing hamstring stuff," Culp said. "I’m just trying to be powerful and explosive from the backfield."
He has a unique relationship with running hills; after all, he's been running them for years with his mother, Candi Culp. She was a track and field coach at Warrensburg-Latham and St. Teresa and the two have bonded over a passion for running and exercise. Candi never had to push sports onto Cade, but rather has had to clear her schedule to be able to fit all of his passions into a 24-hour day. She's got years of coaching experience and is perfectly qualified to offer some running tips to her son after a football game.
“We bond off of it," Cade said. "She gives me tips like: ‘Hey, your strides need to be longer or your feet need to get working when you’re in the backfield.’ That’s all a running back could ask for."
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At around the age of nine, Cade started going to track practices with Candi and took up a particular liking for St. Teresa girls track coach Todd Vohland. Cade went to the IESA state track and field meet with the eighth-grade relay teams when he was in sixth grade, went to state in four events as a seventh grader and went in three events in eighth grade. As a freshman for Maroa last year, he ran track when he didn't have a baseball game and ran in the individual events for the team.
Candi won't take credit for Cade's success on the football field, or baseball diamond, or on the track, though Cade says that his athletic makeup comes from his mother, who played volleyball and ran track at Lincoln Land.
“I think he has some God-given talent, I do," Candi said. "I’m glad. I just want him to use it, be humble and try to be a good role model to other kids."
Cade is another in the long line of Maroa-Forsyth football players who have been standouts from an early age. Maroa head coach Josh Jostes knows he's fortunate in that regard and, at this point, he knows the buttons to press to get the most out of those players on varsity. It was just a waiting game to get him to the varsity level with an opportunity for touches. That time is here.
“It doesn’t really matter in JFL what is going on. If you’ve got the best kid on the field, you win a million JFL games because of that if you’re smart enough to get it to him," Jostes said. "Cade was that kid his whole life."
Now Cade is trying to be "that kid" on a Trojans team that has gone to three straight Class 2A state championship games and has perpetual aspirations of a deep postseason run. Jostes-led teams are known for their dedication to the weight room, and if Culp isn't happy with his performance there, he's always got those pesky hills.
“It’s exciting because he has so much passion for this sport. I never, ever had to push him," Candi said. "He’s the kid who gets up in the morning on his own if he has an early workout. He schedules workouts. It’s unbelievable. I’m really proud of him because he has a lot of passion for it."