I was fortunate to play tight end on the state championship team of 1990. We may have thrown the ball 40 times in 15 games to give you a idea of how much Pepperell likes to run the ball. In fact Brian Smith still holds the record for carries in a game back in 1994( or 95 I think)with 54 carries in one game vs. Villa Rica.
Last year Pepperell was again blessed with a hard nosed and very strong running back Brandon Whitaker. He rushed for over 2000 yards and torched Calhoun for over 250 in a losing effort.
All that is about to change though in 2009. Pepperell has what could be the number 1 pro style quarterback in the state. I have talked with two people in the recruiting business that say he will be preseason number 1 quarterback in the state.
Coach what is it like coaching a quarterback like Jonathan Watters?
Coach Shiftlett-" We have had some good running backs over the years and last year we had a special one in Brandon Whitaker. Next year we also have a good one in Marcus Jackson, but we also understand what we have in Jonathan. We are going to do some things with him in the passing game and also the running game. People don't realize for a quarterback that is 6'4" and almost 190 lbs he can run well to. We are going to put in some packages and give him a opportunity to win some games for us."
Your team made it to the quarterfinal's two years in a row. What are you talking to your kids about to help get them to the next level?
Coach Shiftlett-" We talk everyday about how important each opportunity is and you got to capitalize on them. Working in the weight room and working in other sports is making us better. Getting to the quarterfinals last two years was great, but we have other things we want to accomplish at Pepperell. We are going to work even harder than the last two years to get us to that point."
Coach I don't really like to talk about 9th graders too much but there is alot of buzz about your upcoming 9th grade class. Myself and Chad Simmons ( South Recruiting Analyst) have seen them in person. Few of them of 6'4 and 6'5" 240+ kids. Do you see any of them playing next year?
Coach Shiftlett-"In our offense and defense lines for next year we have a very good group.Last year may have been the best offensive line we have ever had. We only lose one starter in Michael Ozment. I think Michael was the best offensive linemen I have ever been around. Having 4 returning starters we do think some of those young kids will step in and fill back up roles. They will have some good upperclassmen to learn from."
You have 3 juniors in Marcus Jackson, Drew Pearson and Watters that alot of colleges have on their radar. Do you turn to these guys as your leaders?
Coach Shiftlett"-Naturally that should happen with those three young men. This group of upcoming Seniors have played 26 games in the last two years so I think they will all be great leaders for us. I think our experience part will play a big role for us."
Rusty's Final Word- This team took a big hit on the defensive side of the ball especially at linebacker. Pepperell will have to outscore teams early on as the new starters on defense learn on the job. Look out for young man named Dakota Ball who played alot as a freshman on the defensive line. I saw him last night and he is everybit of 6'2" 250lbs right now.