Gritty Shepard transitions to hardwood

MILFORD – A tight end in the fall, Joe Shepard didn’t say much about not seeing the football from his quarterback Gavin Urda.

“I catch it a little better out here anyways,” said the bruising Shepard after his four-point, 12 rebound night in Tuesday’s win over Oyster River.

Shepard was totally unsung on the gridiron for Keith Jones’s South Conference champs. But he was certainly an integral cog in the Spartans’ success.

“He’s just one of those hard-working kids who would run through a brick wall for you,” said Jones, taking in the action on the hardwood on Tuesday. “He knows he’s not a basketball player, but he goes out there and gives you everything he’s got every night. He does his job.”

And this winter, the senior is doing it quite well thank you. Coach Dan Murray was another who was beaming postgame after the havoc wreaked inside by Shepard helped lead his team to its first regular-season win.

“He was due. He hasn’t been taking over like that. And he was a force. He played that way this summer for us, really active,” said Murray. “We play without him, and we’re a totally different team, not nearly as good. When he’s in there we can play with anyone.

“Last year I started to see it, using him more off the bench.”

Shepard is a three-sport Spartan. He plays baseball as well. He says that formula is as good a reason for the success in all three sports as any.

“A lot of us play other sports together. We’re used to having the same guys out there and working together, it works well,” he said.

One of those guys on this team is another Spartan offenive lineman, Kyle Forsley.

He and Shepard have been banging head as teammates for well over a decade now.

“In practice, Kyle and I go at it all the time,” Shepard said. “It’s great having another big guy like that going at it. We’re best friends. We’ve known each other since like we were three years old.”

Tuesday night, Oyster River had different answers, but the Bobcats simply couldn’t solve the riddle of Shepard’s physicality.

“I’m definitely a football guy, 100 percent, but basketball and baseball are right there,” he said.

“I like to battle down low. It’s almost extended football, just a little less hitting, being aggressive and staying with it.”

The Tuesday night win was huge, if not just for sanity’s sake on a Milford team that is expected to do some damage this winter.

“It feels good to start moving forward,” said Shepard. “We worked hard, we work hard in practice and get after it with our own guys, so it’s easier going against people you don’t know in games.”