High school football: Meadowdale falls in Shepard’s coaching debut

Derrick Shepard talked with his players on the field after his first game as Meadowdale football coach. Then he talked with his coaching staff for a couple minutes.

Then he talked about the same things again – the things everyone associated with the program knows is true.

“It’s going to take time – Rome wasn’t built in one day – we’ve got a lot of work to do,” he said. “We’ve got to change the mentality of some of the kids. Some of them have never had that structure, and it’s going to take time.”

The goal to bring Meadowdale back to the winning days of when Shepard starred for the Lions in the 1990s got off to an eye-opening start for the players on Saturday afternoon at Welcome Stadium. The defense stood its ground but the offense had a long day in a 30-3 loss to Cincinnati Western Hills.

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Defense, where Shepard stood out as a defensive tackle for the Lions, at Georgia Tech and for several seasons in arena football, held back the Mustangs most of the game despite a constant field-position disadvantage.

The Mustangs rushed for 69 yards and gained 214 total yards with over a third of those yards coming on one play. Three seniors, tackle Chris Devaughs, linebacker Richard Coleman and free safety Davion Fleming, led the effort.

“Defense played one heck of a game,” Shepard said. “Most of the players that play defense played offense and some of them got tired. They were hustling and they never gave up. If the offense stays on the field longer and continues to block harder, we can give the defense a breather. We’ll be all right. We just got to keep grinding.”

Western Hills used two big plays to control the scoreboard. Quarterback Omar Beckley threw a 78-yard touchdown pass to Rahson Hutchinson with 7:41 left in the first half for a 14-0 lead. With 7:19 left in the third quarter, linebacker Denzel Moses returned an interception 12 yards for a touchdown and a 22-3 lead.

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Meadowdale’s offense produced only 21 yards of offense in the first half, 17 for the game and lost yards on 15 plays. The only points came on Jonnathan Warren’s 28-yard field goal on the last play of the first half. The Lions had taken over at the Western Hills 34 and sophomore quarterback Tre Hodge set it up with runs of 15 and seven yards.

Hodge has been thrust into the starting role after senior Josiah Scates was lost for the season with a broken collarbone. Hodge completed 6 of 10 passes for 10 yards and was always scrambling.

“We have to continue to try to block,” Shepard said. “Our offensive line has got to continue to work and grind. We will get better. We’ve got to block better so our running backs can run and our quarterback won’t be running for his life at times. We’re going to get there.”

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