In their footsteps

Junior quarterback steps up to follow three collegiate athletes from SHS


Kelsey Jones

Junior Zach Shepherd scans the field for an open wide receiver to throw to. Shepherd completed 10 of his 18 passes for 47 yards on Sept. 18 against Bishop Chatard.

Zach Shepherd knew he had to make a play. With the offense lined up on the 15 yard line as the clock ran down against Columbus North, Shepherd, the Cardinals’ junior quarterback, directed his team, pointing to the receivers and linemen. After the snap, he ran left, looking for any opportunity to throw. Wide open in the endzone was senior Antonio Fisher. Shepherd completed the pass to Fisher, sending the Cards to overtime in a game that looked to be over.

This play was one of the first chances for Shepherd to truly show that he has what it takes to follow the lead of former SHS quarterbacks. For the last three years, SHS has had a quarterback who went on to play college football. The challenge for Shepherd now is whether or not he will follow in the footsteps of those athletes.

Shepherd started his journey to a varsity quarterback position at a young age. At nine years old, he started to play quarterback. However, he never thought he would be where he is today.

“Ever since I was little I’ve always seen myself as a player but being a (varsity) quarterback was something I never thought I’d see myself as,” Shepherd said.

Shepherd’s journey was not without hardships. Last year on Oct. 13, Shepherd’s dad passed away from natural causes. This loss led Shepherd to be more focused than ever this season.

“It made me want to succeed a lot more and to just keep playing for him…” Shepherd said. “It made me not only a better player but a better person too.”

Shepherd has also seemed to learn more about the game of football from his teammates and coaches. As he progressed and grew older, he continued to learn more from former teammate Eddie Schott, coach Tyler Weatherford and coach Brian Dugger. Shepherd says Dugger has been more than just a coach to him, helping him with football and other aspects of life.

“(Dugger) helped me prepare for the next games by always putting me in situations that I would be capable of doing well in,” Shepherd said. “And he has just always been there for me.”

With all of the pressure Shepherd already has from leading the offense, he still says he feels no added pressure knowing that he is following three collegiate players (from Shepherd’s sophomore to junior year: Luke Johnson, who’s now at Marion University, Schott, now at Ball State University, and Ryan Lezon, also at Ball State University).

According to head coach Brian Winters, Shepherd has had a tremendous season given the circumstances he has faced.

“The schedule, combined with the limited offseason due to COVID has been challenging and caused some ups and downs, but he has handled things well,” Winters said. “He improves every week.”

From just this season, Shepherd has thrown the ball for 478 yards and has a total completion rate of 56%. Even with these stats, Shepherd and his coaches both think he can improve on his game by increasing his accuracy and throwing time inside of the pocket.

“Having a quarterback that can make plays outside of the pocket is sometimes helpful, but the most important skills for any quarterback are accuracy and making throws on time.” Winters said.

For some of Shepherd’s receivers, they must learn to adapt to a whole new offensive style after the loss of former quarterback Lezon. Senior Carson Moore believes Shepherd has a very unique skill set of not only being able to throw on the run but also to stay in the pocket.

“Zach has a different style, he’s not a true pocket quarterback but he’s able to do both,” Moore said.

According to Moore, when at the forefront of the offense, Shepherd must not only be a great player and quarterback but a great leader as well, which is something Shepherd has already found to be skilled at.

“Zach is always the guy keeping people’s heads up in every situation. He’s always able to own up to his mistakes and work past them while keeping the other guys up… that’s what a leader does,” Moore said.