Shepherd will be in the middle of action for Bears this season


John Henson

Harlan County senior center Ethan Shepherd prepared to snap the ball during a practice session earlier this summer. Shepherd is a returning starter on the Bears’ line.

By John Henson, Managing Editor

As the probable starter at both center and nose guard, senior Ethan Shepherd will be in the middle of just about everything the Harlan County Black Bears do during the 2021 football season.

Ethan Shepherd

“I’ve watched some film on him, and he looks like another kid who could have a big season,” Harlan County coach Amos McCreary said during a practice session.
Shepherd (5-10, 265) has been one of the team’s strongest players since he joined the program three years ago with a max on his bench of 385 along with a squat of 565.
“He’s a big, strong kid who fits well at center because if he gets his hands on you, you aren’t going to get away. He benched over 350 when I saw him in the weight room earlier this season,” McCreary said.
Even though leading tacklers Hunter Blevins and Josh Turner were among the defensive leaders graduating, several key players are back, including Shepherd.
“He can hold ground up front at nose guard. If he can demand a double team, that’s two of theirs against one,” McCreary said. “We hope the linebackers can make the play when that happens.”
The most experienced part of this year’s HCHS team is on the line where Shepherd returns, along with junior tackle Connor Blevins, sophomore tackle Jacob Shoemaker and sophomore guard Will Cassim.
“We have some guys who haven’t played a lot, so I have to try to help where I can,” Shepherd said. “I think our offensive line will be pretty good. We have quite a few back up front overall, plus Demarco (Hopkins) in the backfield, so I think we’ll be OK.”
The HCHS offense is making the move to a Wing T alignment during summer workouts.
“It’s going well. We’re adjusting to the Wing T,” Shepherd said. “The blocks are about the same for me at center, but it’s different for the other guys. We just have to learn all the plays and get in the best shape we can.”
Finding some other quality linemen ready to play behind the returning starters is one of McCreary’s priorities in the summer.
“We need to develop some depth where we can rest those linemen a little,” he said. “That’s what we’re hoping to do, but we may have to let them go both ways the entire game. The numbers right now aren’t what they should be (around 45 the opening week of practice). We didn’t get a lot of freshmen because we had so many eighth-graders hold back. We have a lot of young guys on the line, other than Ethan.”
Harlan County will be at home Friday against Middlesboro in the Bears’ first scrimmage. HCHS will open the regular season on Aug. 20 at home against South Laurel.