The Shoemaker Grey Wolves (7-3) struggled out of the gate, but have since been on the defensive.
Shoemaker’s tenacious defense helped the school reach the playoffs for the second time in school history.
“To be in the playoffs and to continue and be competitive, you’re going to have to play good defense against good football teams,” Shoemaker head coach Channon Hall said. “We’ve got a lot of players on defense that we count on big time and those guys stepped up and their juices got flowing at the right time.”
Shoemaker takes on the Mansfield Timberview Wolves (7-3) in the Division I-5A bi-district playoffs tonight at 7 at Floyd Casey Stadium in Waco.
Since beginning the season with a 2-3 record and losing its first pair of district games, the Grey Wolves defense has come on and allowed less than 23 points in four of their last five games, including holding Waco Midway and Ellison to single digits.
Shoemaker went 2-8 last season, but has been playing well for more than a month, winning its last five district games.
“We’re staying focused, but if we get a win this Saturday, it really will be a great thing for us,” senior cornerback Dwayne Williams said.
Senior free safety Darnell Everett said that during the first half of the season the defensive schemes were difficult to grasp, but things have gotten earlier to understand down the stretch.
“It was new to us, we were learning new things,” Everett said. “Now we’re starting to game plan harder and we’re doing more and more. It’s allowed us to see it on the field easier.”
One of the reasons for Shoemaker’s defensive success is its ability to get turnovers.
The Grey Wolves led the district with 24 turnovers, including 19 interceptions.
Williams led the district with 10 interceptions for 276 return yards and a touchdown, and had 17 pass break-ups.
“I just know I have to go up and get it to help my team win,” Williams said. “Just go up and get it.”
Junior linebacker Teneak Hall led the Grey Wolves defense in total tackles during the regular season with 128 while senior linebacker Malik Clemons was close behind with 119.
Clemons also led the team with 18 tackles for loss and had five quarterback pressures.
Junior defensive lineman and linebacker Broderick Reed, Kerry Walker, Hall and Clemons made a formidable pass rushing force this season as the quartet combined for 31 sacks.
The Grey Wolves face a Timberview offense that finished seventh in District 7-5A in team offense with 272 yards per game.
Senior quarterback Ziere Banner finished third in the district with 1,077 yards to go along with 2,146 yards through the air. Banner combined for 17 touchdowns.
Rayshun Spearman gives the Grey Wolves another rushing option finishing with 814 yards and nine touchdowns.
Nahome Anderson was Shoemaker’s biggest receiving target with 1,122 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Collegiate Wolves rooting for Shoemaker
Houston Cougars defensive lineman Eric Braswell and Air Force offensive lineman Jerry Henry know about leading Shoemaker to the playoffs.
They were a part of the 2008 team that helped the Grey Wolves make school history before falling to Tyler John Tyler 29-18 in the Division II-5A playoffs at Midlothian ISD Stadium.
“I’m really proud of them,” Henry said. “These guys have come a long way and it’s a testament to the hard work the coaches have put in and what the players have bought into. It’s really pleasing to hear that they made the playoffs.”
Henry and the Falcons have a bye week before hosting UNLV on Nov. 21.
Houston visits Louisville tonight, but Braswell said he would be tracking the Shoemaker playoff game after the Cougars game.
“He came in there and turned the program around,” Braswell said about Hall.
“I’m really excited for them and I’m proud of all of them.”