The Shepards shine on big stage

When Cypress Ridge lined up against its rival Cypress Falls last season, it quickly became the Russell Shepard Show. Shepard, a junior at the time, carried the ball 20 times for 341 yards and five touchdowns on the evening in a 51-27 rout.

Fast forward a year and Shepard finds himself in the headlines of high school and college football articles week in and week out, accolades that come with the territory of being ranked the No. 3 quarterback prospect in the nation.


So when ESPN came to Houston to air last Thursday night's game on their college network, ESPNU, Shepard never batted an eye.


"There are cameras at every one of our games," he said. "More cameras do not mean more pressure by any means. I just go out there and do what I need to do to help us get the victory. If I was younger, then maybe I would have been nervous. But I have been playing for too long to get nervous out there."


While he had shredded Cypress Falls last season, the Houston-native backed off of the thought of having another big game.


"It's a new year, and they have a new team," Shepard said last week before Thursday night's contest. "That is how I am going to prepare, as if last year didn't happen."


Of course, if last year had not have happened, Shepard would always have his senior performance against the Eagles to look back on.


The five-star, known for his athleticism outside the pocket, rushed 13 times for 121 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Modest ground numbers compared to last season's game. Yet, Shepard had a more impressive line for critics to take aim at.


After starting the game fast with the ground attack, Shepard finished a perfect 11-for-11 through the air for 175 yards and two touchdowns.


"To be honest, I didn't even know I had not thrown an incompletion until I woke up the next day and someone mentioned it to me," Shepard said. "I don't really think of that kind of stuff during the game. I just try to get our team down the field and into the end zone."


While the Rams cruised to a 68-21 victory, the future Tiger did not walk away fully pleased.


"Sure we had 706 yards of total offense, but we had ten penalties," Shepard said. "We can't play like that if we want to win each and every game. But for the most part it was a good game. They gave us easy, simple routes and we just made the plays we needed."


While Shepard showed off his full arsenal, it was Minnesota-commitment Hassan Lipscomb who stole the show as he rushed for 251 yards and four touchdowns on just 19 carries.


"Hassan played really well, and I haven't seen him run like that in a long time," Shepard said. "He has been held back by injuries for a while. That was a healthy Hassan [Thursday] night though. He is the key to our offense. Once he is going, we can get everyone involved. I consider him one of the best running backs in the state."


Of course, one can't look past the five-star's perfect game through the air given his arm has been the only knock on the dual-threat passer.


"I guess it was kind of a statement game for me," Shepard said. "I have been working as hard as I can to get my arm to where it needs to be. I really wanted to perfect my ball placement, allowing my receivers to get yardage after the catch. I also want us to stay consistent on third down, and I felt like we were able to do that."


Though the spotlight of a nationally televised game did nothing to affect the older Shepard, his younger brother, sophomore safety Nick Shepard, admits that he was feeling the heat.


"The first drive I was nervous," Nick said. "But after that first contact it was time to go play. I settled myself down and treated it just like a regular game. I felt good about it, especially since it was just my second game playing free [safety] after playing wide receiver last season."


With his second start at free safety televised for the entire country to see, the sophomore came through in the only way he knew how with an interception.


"The pick felt really good," Nick said. "I had let a lot of opportunities to make a big play go throughout the night. So, when I capitalized there, it put me in my rhythm. I just was not producing at the level I expect out of myself before that. I definitely can say safety is the spot I want to be on the field at though, and where I am going to stay throughout my high school playing time."


Though college is far on the horizon, the younger Shepard said that LSU is already on top of his list.


"I really like LSU a lot, especially with Russell being there," Nick said. "When I went up there with him it felt really good. If they look at me, they are on the top of my list. We keep things in the family."

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