Shephard makes plays for Cavaliers
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
With everything going wrong, the Callaway Cavaliers needed someone to provide a spark, to turn the momentum.
In the third round of last year’s Class AA state playoffs, Callaway found itself in a 14-0 hole in the first half against Douglass-Atlanta.
After Douglass scored its second touchdown to take a 14-point lead, Jalin Shephard came through with that big play Callaway so desperately needed.
Shephard took the ensuing kickoff and returned it 70 yards for the touchdown, and the Cavaliers didn’t look back on the way to a 41-20 victory.
Making impactful plays is something Shephard has been doing for the past two seasons as a defensive back, wide receiver and kick returner, and he’ll be an anchor on the team as a senior.
“I’m very excited,” Shephard said. “Everybody always says four years goes by fast, and it does.”
Shephard was a centerpiece of the 2018 and 2019 teams that both reached the semifinals of the state playoffs.
“The biggest thing is he’s a leader,” said Callaway head coach Pete Wiggins. “He’s a leader in the weight room, and on the practice field. So we’re excited about his senior year.”
After reaching double digits in interceptions as a sophomore in 2018, Shephard was a defensive leader again last season while making some big plays on offense and special teams, even though he was slowed by an injury.
“He battled a groin injury all last year,” said Callaway defensive coordinator Dusty Hubbard. “He was never really 100 percent after about the third week of the season.”
Shephard fought through the injury and continued to play, though, and his contributions were critical to a team that went 12-2.
“We always knew he was going to play. He was going to push through,” Hubbard said. “We limited his reps a lot at practice and coach (Dialleo) Burks did a really good job limiting his reps offensively.”
Shephard was a part of a talented and experienced group of wide receivers last season.
Four of those receivers have graduated, and Shephard will be the veteran in that group.
“Going into his senior year, we’re going to use him more on the offensive side,” Wiggins said. “He’s got a great skill set. He’s fast. So I think that he will excel on the offensive side, in addition to playing corner on defense like he has for the past two years.”
While playing on offense and defense, Shephard also punts and returns kicks, so he’ll no doubt be one of the busiest players on the team.
“He’s just so valuable,” Hubbard said. “He can do just about anything you ask him to do. He’s a sure tackler on defense, he understands our system. This will be his third year starting. He’s just so valuable to have on the back end of the defense.”
The Cavaliers have completed their second week of summer conditioning in preparation for a season that begins on Aug. 21 against Opelika.
“We’re just pushing as hard as we can in the offseason,” Shephard said.
The Cavaliers will enter the season with typically high expectations, and having a player with Shepard’s ability and drive is a big reason why.
“Shep is a very versatile player,” Wiggins said. “He works hard in the weight room, on the field, and he’s going to have a lot of weight on his shoulders.”
Shephard, who is also a standout on the Callaway basketball team, is looking forward to his final go-around as a high-school football players.
“It’s just about being out there with the guys and having fun,” Shephard said.