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Cameron Smith

Injured Barry Sanders Jr. upstaged by teammate in title game

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

Remember earlier this fall, when Prep Rally wrote that Barry Sanders Jr. might not even be the best son of a former pro on his high school team? Well, the junior running back, out of the state title game with a persistent foot injury, was upstaged by that other descendent of an NFL-star -- Sterling Shepard -- and ended up with an accomplishment his father could never boast of: A state (or national) football title.

Sanders Jr. and his teammates should spend plenty of their offseasons thanking Shepard for their state championship gear, because the junior wide receiver carried his team to that crown almost singlehandedly. After being shut out in the first half, Heritage Hall (Okla.) High coach Andy Bogert knew that the only way his undefeated Chargers' team was going to mount a final comeback was to funnel the ball into Shepard's hands.

With that in mind, Heritage moved Shepard -- who burst onto the national recruiting scene earlier this year in a game in which he scored five touchdowns on only five touches in a single half -- out of his traditional wide receiver position to running back and a wildcat quarterback role. The junior made sure the adjustments worked without a hitch.

After picking up 28 yards on only four carries in the first half, Shepard exploded for 169 yards and four touchdowns, providing all of his team's points in a 28-21 victory that left 10-4 Kingfisher (Okla.) High on the losing end of a state title game for the third time in four years. The Heritage Hall star finished the game with all but 48 of his team's yards on the ground.

Shepard also had 38 receiving yards, dominating the Chargers' stat sheet in fellow super-junior Sanders Jr.'s absence. The reasons for Shepard's effectiveness were simple: speed and elusiveness. The son of late Oklahoma Sooners legend Derrick Shepard, the younger Shepard's speed was never more evident than on his breakaway 38-yard gallop to the end zone for his first touchdown against Kingfisher, when he burst through the line and straight on to pay dirt.

"I don't even know what to say right now. I'm so pumped and so excited," Shepard told the Oklahoman. "We wanted to do it for all those seniors. They've been a great group of guys and have taught us so much. [...]

"Going into that fourth quarter, I wasn't nervous at all. We were playing our game again, and it was time to finish it."

Shepard did finish it, lifting his teammates into a state title in the process. Now the only question is whether the lesser-known of Heritage Hall's renowned junior stars will begin to surpass Sanders Jr. in recruiting attention.

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