The Green Bay East football team hasn’t been to the postseason since 2007.
A lot will have to happen for the Red Devils to get there this season, although they talk and act like a team ready to get back.
To do so, they must execute the offense much better than at times in the past. On defense, they have to get off the field on third downs.
Oh, and they also need to start winning more football games. The two they won last season just won’t cut it.
It’s up to the senior class to help get it done. The team only has a handful of returning starters on both sides of the ball, but they do have some experience returning thanks to reserve players filling in for some injured starters in 2011.
The Red Devils have some playmakers on offense, including a standout that seems to do damage whenever he touches the ball.
That would be senior running back Jimmy Shepard, who has a chance to be one of the better offensive players in the 12-team Fox River Classic Conference this season.
“He brings plays, he makes plays,” senior quarterback Brad Van Pay said. “That’s all he does.
“He’s funny. He gets the team up, too. He’s our go-to guy. He will make the plays when we need them.”
Shepard won’t be the only one touching the ball in the backfield, but he will need to get it a lot if East hopes to have more success and score more points.
The 5-foot-10, 165-pound Shepard rushed for 730 yards and scored eight touchdowns in league play as a junior. He averaged 7.5 yards per carry, which was second to Green Bay Notre Dame running back and FRCC offensive player of the year Alex Miller for running backs with 50 or more carries.
It was enough to earn Shepard second-team all-conference honors and increase expectations entering this season.
After scoring on a 44-yard touchdown run in the first quarter against Green Bay West last season and adding two more TDs and a 91-yard kickoff return later in the game, East coach Brian Nast called Shepard another cog in the machine.
Nast might not say it or even think it, but Shepard should be more than just a cog this season. He should be the main part, provided he’s willing to embrace that role and the responsibilities that come with it.
“He’s definitely a good player,” Nast said. “He has some wiggle. He has some speed. So we will definitely use those things, but we have three other weapons we are going to use as well.
“But he is definitely going to get some carries.”
It should help East that Van Pay is returning at quarterback after starting for the Red Devils last season. Van Pay threw for 395 yards and three touchdowns in league play, although he also tossed four interceptions and only completed 38.2 percent of his passes.
That obviously will have to get better. If it does, the Red Devils should get better with him.
Van Pay is trying to take some of the leadership role on his shoulders. He has been working hard during the summer in preparation for his final prep season. He never has been part of a postseason game, and this is his last chance.
“I think it is very attainable based on our backs,” Van Pay said. “We have a lot of veteran backs coming back, and I think our line will put it together.
“I feel like it’s a lot on me. I’m a team captain. A senior captain, and the quarterback. I just try to make them all focused, stay on track.”