Shoemaker is ready to go.
The Grey Wolves have finished up a laborious nondistrict schedule in which they faced three state-ranked opponents in four weeks. But they will not get a reprieve Friday at Leo Buckley Stadium, as they will suit up as the home team to face Ellison (4-0) in their District 8-6A opener at 7:30 p.m.
However, its first four contests have allowed Shoemaker (0-4) a chance to not only grow as players, but also as a coaching staff. Because of that, head coach Johnnie Fair believes the team is prepared for league play.
“I think those games were great,” Fair said. “We are a new staff, and we’ve been kind of figuring out which kids could play and which kids couldn’t play.
“But I do think you need those kinds of games in place in order to make the kids aware from Day 1, Week 1, what the level of competition looks like in the third, fourth and fifth round of the playoffs.”
All teams begin district play with a new slate, and that has Fair and the Wolves enjoying the chance to start anew.
But while they are excited to hit the reset button, the coach wants the team to both remember and grow from its first four games.
“You can’t forget about the last four weeks, because forgetting about the last four weeks almost puts you right back in the same spot,” Fair said.
And in the last month, Shoemaker has shown plenty of promise.
Offensively, it has continued to improve along the line. Running back Mondra Randle has developed into a big-play threat, and Chris Speidel has provided veteran leadership at wide receiver to accompany his strong playmaking ability.
On defense, the Wolves have both improved and adjusted in areas where the coaching staff feels it can put some players in better position to succeed. Nah’Cyem Brooks has been a consistent presence at middle linebacker, and cornerbacks Tavion Hawthorne and Tyreike Beckett continue to shine in the secondary.
Shoemaker has also improved its special teams, where freshman Matthew McNair has given the team a shot in the arm at both place-kicker and punter.
Entering Friday’s contest against the Eagles, who have put up points in bunches, Fair believes his team is battle-hardened and prepared for the test against an all-too-familiar foe.
“They’re a great team,” Fair said. “They’ve got a really great offense, a good quarterback. They’ve got a good defense, and our kids are up for the challenge.
“They’re coming in 4-0, and we’re coming in 0-4. Our kids are ready to go, and I’m sure their kids are ready to go, as well. It’s an intra-city game.”