2018 Gridiron: South Shelby Cardinals
Colors: Red, white and blue
Total Returning Lettermen: 9
2017 Overall Record: 6-6
Head Coach: Rob Wilt
Years at School: 11
Record at School: 89-49
Overall Record: 89-49
THE HUNT FOR RED BROCK-TOBER: SUPERSTAR TAILBACK, YOUTH MOVEMENT LOOM LARGE IN CARDINALS GRIDIRON NARRATIVE
BIRD CALLS: After opening the 2017 campaign with a pair of impressive wins over Brookfield and Louisiana, Rob Wilt’s Cardinals ran headlong into the gathering storm that was soon-to-be Class 1 State Champion Monroe City at Lankford Field. In truth, South Shelby played a mostly decent first half against the Panthers yet suffered on the scoreboard from a pair of big plays in the Second Quarter that snowballed the thing into an eventual 38-6 defeat. Thus began a down-spiral saw South lose four of its next five contests against the Clarence Cannon’s power elite. South would rebound thereafter with your standard issue Rob Wilt October surge, winning three straight down the stretch; only to find Monroe City lurking in wait again in the District Title Game. The Panthers would drop a 56 point offensive avalanche in spiriting the Cardinals to the Postseason Off-Ramp. Which brings us to the here and now and what might be one of the most unique roster constructs in all of Tri-State Football. South Shelby returns just nine total letterman and only three Seniors from last year’s roster. On the plus side, Rob Wilt will have in place a half-dozen returning starters on each side of the football. The black cloud to that silver lining is that the South Shelby will essentially spend the Summer on a scavenger hunt trying to drum up ten new starters from a roster that doesn’t have great depth or experience. Suffice it to say, it’s going to be a fascinating tightrope walk in Shelbina this Fall.
THE EXCLAMATION POINT: Question marks may abound for South Shelby headed into the 2018 campaign but there is also one inescapable truism here that should strike fear into the hearts of every Defensive Coordinator in Northeast Missouri. And he goes by the name of Brock Wood. With the exception of only Quincy High’s Jirehl Brock, there is no more singular offensive weapon in Tri-State Football. And one could reasonably argue that Mister Wood is the most effective returning two-way Player in Tri-State Football, given his exceptional work last season as a Cover Corner and the Second Team All-State Accord Brock received from the Missouri High School Football Coaches Association as a Return Specialist. It starts with the South Shelby Senior’s exceptional straight line speed and unmatched explosion; which can be underscored here by looking back to the Cardinals Sixth Place team finish in Jefferson City at the MSHSAA State Track and Field Championship. Wood supplied all 32 of those scored points for his program with individual second place finishes in the Long Jump, 110 and 300 meter Hurdles, and the 200 meter dash. He simply plays the game of football at a different tempo than the mere mortals around him. Give him a sliver of daylight and Brock Wood is as good as hanging six on the scoreboard. He averaged just over 10 yards per carry as a Junior; rushing for 1667 and 18 total touchdowns. He averaged 27 and 28 yards per attempt respectively in Kick and Punt returns. And Brock intercepted three passes, including a Pick-Six on the other side of the ball. Rob Wilt calls him the best athlete he’s ever coached and it’s easy to see why. That established, there’s now a greater amount of weight riding on Wood’s shoulders as he will be asked to make not just himself, but those around him better as Team Captain and the Face of the Franchise. Ultimately, South Shelby’s success as a team will rely on how well the “everything else” serves to compliment Brock this Fall, because one guy alone isn’t enough in this game. But make no mistake about it, Brock Wood is a singular athletic talent and one of the most captivating watches in Tri-State Football.
KANON FODDER: With Brock Wood in the defensive crosshairs from snap one this season, Rob Wilt has vowed to make his offense more multiple and diverse in effort to replicate or better the 28 points and 287 rushing yards per game the Cardinals produced in 2017. And the South Shelby skipper feels like he’s got the complimentary parts to do just that, even if the new crop of Cardinal Weapons aren’t exactly household names just yet. Part of this process will hinge on the further development of Junior Quarterback Kanon Kendrick, who you may know from his considerable golf accomplishments last Spring. The 5’9” 155 pounder had only a dozen completions in just 50 attempts last Fall but the game figures to slow down for him now with a year under his belt. And there is inducement to put the ball into the air more often, not only to release some of the defensive pressure on Brock Wood, but because the Cardinals have a phalanx of potentially interesting pass-catchers at the ready. Guy Timbrook is a 6’4” jumping jack who averaged 21 yards per catch with limited targets as a Sophomore. His utility here is self-evident. The South Shelby Coaching Staff is also high on incoming Sophomore Talents David Fenton (5’8” 140lbs) and Shaun Wilkerson (5’11” 160lbs) who it sounds like could be thrust into the mix very early in their careers.
DO NOT SLEEP ON: Daniel Burke. He obviously enjoyed a very productive (if somewhat under-radar) Sophomore Season as a Cornerback with 58 tackles and three interceptions. All of our intel, however, tells us that Burke is positioned for a major uptick in work and profile as a counter-weapon to Brock Wood in the run game. History suggest that Rob Wilt loves having multiple feature backs at the ready and Burke has drawn early comparisons to former Cardinal standout Shannon Hall in stature and scope. He’s going to see significant reps. Deep sleeper alert as well on Marcus Wiseman, who could also pop as a member of that highly regard class of 2020.
RIGHT LEANING PIGSKIN POLITICS: In an effort to Make Cardinal Football Great Again, South Shelby will lean rightat least on the Offensive Line. Granted, “MCFGA” is a pretty lousy acronym and I actually have no idea of the politics of anyone involved here (thank Heavens) but the South boasts three excellent starters on the right side of the lineand two glaring holes (one previous All-Stater occupied) on the Left. Caleb Strachan Centers this unit and is one of the savviest Juniors you will find. He makes all of the line calls, makes very few mistakes, and gets after his defender every play. Cason Wilt made enormous progress at Guard a year ago, to the point that he is trending towards becoming an All-CCC level lane-clearer. Gage Rainey overcame some early rust and shoulder issues to finish his Junior Year strong. And at 6’2” and 250 pounds, profiles as the kind of cornerstone Tackle this unit dearly needs. Expect Mason Shuler, Luke Wautzke, Justin Allee, and Wyatt Jackson to contend for the Guard and Tackle vacancies on the Left.
DYNAMITE DB'S: Defensively, the Cardinals hope to reap the benefit of playing so many underclassmen a year ago and in so doing, sharpening the edges on this group’s overall run stopping proficiency. As previously mentioned above, the returns of Wood and Burke at Cornerback all but guarantee the Cardinals will be an absolute chore to throw against. It’s the first two levels of the Defense that need some fine tuning in trying to cut down on the 25 points per game allowed a year ago.
On-the-job training for Sophomores Cason Wilt and Caleb Strachan paid big dividends as the season wore on. After some initial growing pains, Rob Wilt credits both kids for figuring out organically how to better shed blocks and get more directly to contact. The next result was 72 stops, nine tackles for loss, and three force fumbles for Wilt and 52 tackles and 5 play sabotages behind the line of scrimmage for Strachan. Senior Justin Allee (6’ 165lbs) and Sophomore Shaun Wilkerson loom large here as options at Outside Linebacker.
THE DUERR DIAGNOSIS: There certainly are a lot of “if’s” here for the South Shelby Football team heading into 2018. Ability to project a passing game. Competency of a rebuilt Offensive Line. Consistency of tackling against the run. Leadership void with just three upperclassmen on the entire roster. The Cardinals have a lot to answer for and are working on a short clock to get there. Much like last year, the schedule is softer on the front and back end (though the prospect of facing an improved Bowling Green in Week One is no cake walk) and ugly as can be in the middle. Make no mistake, this group is going to get punched in the mouth given the gauntlet of good opponents they face. The tipping point here is how South Shelby collectively responds when that happens. Young teams tend to look it in tough moments. This South Shelby squad can’t afford any hint of self-doubt or self-pity. They don’t have that luxury. There’s talent here, for sure. But this is about posture. Do you position yourself as a team that fights every single snap? Do you pick each other up when underclassmen make the inevitable growing pain mistakes? Or do you fall into self-defeatist patterns without Senior leaders at every position to model persistence and chemistry? There’s no sugar coating how tough this road is through the CCC for a Class 1 Team with limited numbers. By the same token, if South Shelby comes out unbroken, mentally/physically tougher and steeled in determination on the back end of the Conference Death March; there is a lot to like about this group going into Districts and being able to stand toe-to-toe with a Scotland County or even a Monroe City at Title time. The great Rob Wilt teams have done that time and again. We will see if this uniquely challenged squad can do same. And again, if they do, South has the weapons to concern anyone and everyone they face in a late season scenario. Anxious to see if they can get there and earn that shot to become this year’s version of Clark County.