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When Jonah Shacklett got home last Friday night, he had a surprise waiting for him.
After his 109-yard, four-touchdown performance in the biggest game of his career – Meade County’s 43-7 win over Central Hardin in the Class 6-A, Region 1 championship – his father made him four cupcakes, one for each touchdown.
And Shacklett ate every one of them.
The 5-foot-9, 185-pound senior fullback/linebacker is enjoying every minute these days as the No. 9 Green Wave (11-2) host No. 11 Louisville Butler (11-2) on Friday in their bid to reach their first state championship game since 1991.
The crazy thing is, he almost wasn’t a part of it.
This past spring, Shacklett transferred to Collins, where he spent the final two months of the school year. He was experiencing some family problems and needed a change.
But when he came back to Meade County at the end of the school year to watch some of his former teammates graduate, he realized something: This was his family, this was where he needed to be.
Shacklett still would have been playing football this Friday regardless – Collins is in the 4-A semifinals against Owensboro – but it wouldn’t have been the same, not like the feeling he has with the group in Meade County’s locker room.
“I know every single person in there like they’re my family, like they’re my brothers – every single one of them,” Shacklett said. “Up at Collins, I knew a few people but it didn’t click like it does here.”
It’s clicked for him this season at Meade County, all right.
Shacklett has rushed for 909 yards and 11 touchdowns this season to spark an offense which is averaging 36.7 points per game. And he’s a valuable piece on a defense allowing just 8.5 points per game and has six shutouts.
“It’s a good feeling,” Shacklett said. “My friends here, they support me in whatever I do. I’m just thankful to have good friends like that, who want me back and made me come back to be a part of this football team again.”
While the talent has always been there, Shacklett had some maturing to do before he became the player he is today.
When he first entered Meade County, Shacklett said he didn’t do things the right way. He would get into trouble a lot, he didn’t get along with his teachers and his attitude wasn’t the way it should be.
But Meade County coach Larry Mofield insists those days are long behind Shacklett, and the new attitude has carried over to his performance on the field.
“I really think the maturing process has taken place as much off the field as it has on the field,” Mofield said. “Sometimes people look at just the games and they don’t see everything you see as a coach. As a coaching staff, we’ve seen him develop in other areas besides football. What happened is those other areas bleed over onto the field, and they cause you to be pretty good.”
Looking back, Shacklett acknowledges his mistakes, but says he’s fixed them.
“Back in my early years of high school football, I was a bad kid. Let’s just say it like that,” Shacklett said. “I’ve grown up in leadership where I should make people feel better about themselves and not put them down all the time. People look up to me and I have to give them a good view of me, so they can follow in my footsteps.”
One of those people is Shacklett’s younger brother, Jeremiah, a freshman running back who Shacklett says “can be better than me hopefully.”
Jeremiah will have his work cut out for him.
The numbers themselves are impressive, but considering Shacklett is operating out of the Wing-T when he’s not getting as many carries as a featured running back, they’re even more so. He is averaging 7 yards per carry and has also scored five 2-point conversions.
“He’s so quick out of the gate. His first three steps, especially for a fullback, are really quick,” offensive coordinator Glen Wilson said. “It doesn’t take much of a hole – if he can get a little crease, he can get through there before it closes.”
While offense is where Shacklett shines, defense is where he enjoys playing most because he gets to hit people. During the regular season, Shacklett led the team with 48 tackles, including a team-high 11 for loss. He recovered a critical fumble in the red zone during the second quarter last week as Central Hardin looked to cut Meade County’s lead in half.
“He’s really turned himself into a good player,” said senior Luke Wilson, who has played alongside Shacklett since eighth grade. “He had a lot of opportunities to go away from football for different reasons but he stuck with it. Our team is definitely better off for it. He is all-around one of our best players on both sides of the ball, and he doesn’t back down from anybody.”
Shacklett isn’t receiving a lot of interest from colleges, but he hopes to play at the next level and study criminal justice in hopes of being a police officer.
Just as Shacklett corrected his problems in the classroom and off the field, two more games like last Friday could fix that.
Ryan O’Gara can be reached at 270-505-1754 or firstname.lastname@example.org.