The most prolific running back in Shoemaker school history capped his high school career Saturday with a state championship as the anchor in 800-meter relay — the Grey Wolves’ first gold medal at the UIL State Track and Field Championships.
With the break-away speed that electrified fans and horrified opposing defensive coordinators on the football field, Johnny Jefferson’s legacy may be remembered on the track. That has not made the hole any smaller for the Grey Wolves football team, which embarked on its first spring practices without him.
“We didn’t go into (spring drills) saying, ‘We need to get a playmaker.’ We said, ‘Hey, you guys are going to make plays, let’s see who’s going to make them.’ And that went for everybody,” Shoemaker head football coach Channon Hall said. “I think these guys are out here and every snap they’re trying to make a play — they’re not waiting on anybody to make a play (for them).”
With a stronger offensive line than Shoemaker enjoyed in previous years and a plethora of athletes walking the halls, Hall said the Grey Wolves can manage without the Baylor-signed Jefferson, a three-year starter who ran for 1,580 yards and 18 touchdowns and received all-state honorable mention as a senior.
And they’ll do it, Hall said, “by committee.”
“Our playmakers are going to be Ziere Banner, Qwoy Blunt, Rayshun Spearman and guys like that, Nahome Anderson,” Hall said. “All those guys are returning starters and have shown some playmaker ability and we’re going to ask them to make plays.”
Banner, the Grey Wolves’ starting quarterback the last two seasons, threw for 701 yards, four touchdowns and seven interceptions last season as Shoemaker went 2-8, one win better than in Hall’s first year.
Blunt, the Grey Wolves’ leading receiver a year ago (35-473, 3 TDs), also saw time at quarterback and averaged more than 20 yards a return on kickoffs.
Shoemaker’s defense, the fifth-ranked unit in District 8-5A after allowing more than 376 yards a game, was hindered by injuries last season, specifically along the defensive line.
However, last season’s struggles has given the team a more experienced front this year.
“Probably about 90 percent of the year, we never played with our best three or four guys at the same time. That hurt,” Hall said. “This year, we’ve got about seven guys that are going to play D-line that we feel pretty good about that are fast, that are bought-in.”
Leading the group is linebacker Malik Clemons, the District 12-5A defensive newcomer of the year in 2011 as a sophomore. Junior safety Darnell Everett and junior defensive back Dwayne Williams, who ran the starting leg on the Grey Wolves’ gold medal-winning 800 relay, are also expected to bring leadership to the defensive group next year.
“We feel we have a solid group that likes each other and that are team players with each other,” Hall said. “Just that senior leadership, we’re going to depend big on it. I think we’ve got enough seniors in place to lead this team in the right direction.”
But the Shoemaker athletic program might already be heading that way.
The Grey Wolves baseball team made the playoffs for the first time in school history. The state champion 800-meter relay was just one of three gold medals Shoemaker celebrated this weekend — senior thrower Cion Hicks also won gold in both the shot put and discus.
“We preach family all the time. Shoemaker always has, seems like a dark cloud over them, especially athletically.
“Everybody talks about the negative things with Shoemaker and the bottom line is, as a family, we feel like 2013 has been good for Shoemaker,” Hall said. “We feel like the stars a lining up for us.”
Contact Kevin Posival at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7562