MACON – Micah Sheppard just wanted to get his foot in the door at Meridian.
He's now in charge of the whole football operation.
Meridian promoted Sheppard to head coach at Tuesday's school board meeting after assisting the team for one season under Scott Davis, who stepped down after four seasons to become an assistant coach at MacArthur.
“He's real upbeat, real positive and excited about the opportunity,” Meridian principal Eric Hurelbrink said. “The nice thing for Micah is he's worked with Scott last year as an assistant, so he knows the kids going into it and they know him. So there's some familiarity there and hopefully that will make the transition much easier for him and the boys.”
It's just a sheer coincidence that Sheppard is coming from MacArthur.
Sheppard, a 1997 Argenta-Oreana grad, previously assisted the Generals for 10 seasons – serving as offensive coordinator during that span – and still stayed on at MacArthur this past school year teaching P.E. and coaching boys track and field.
“It's just kind of how it worked out,” Hurelbrink said. “It's probably not a real common thing to swap out coaches like that.”
Sheppard, who played football and ran track at Carthage College for three years before transferring to Eastern Illinois, switched over to Meridian last year after moving into the school district about four years ago with his family.
“We're in the community, so I kind of felt a disconnect with my family and then teaching and coaching at MacArthur,” Sheppard said. “I felt like I needed to make that transition and move to come down here and be more involved with what my boys were doing at school and our community as a whole.”
He never envisioned taking the helm.
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“I didn't see that as anything that would be happening soon,” Sheppard said. “I just, more than anything, wanted to be involved with the program. It was a hard move to make. I didn't know what to come of it, but just felt like it was the right thing for me to do and the right thing to do for my family.”
Sheppard was the only coach left on board after the departure of Davis and he was subsequently put in charge of keeping the team together while school administrators searched for a permanent replacement. That just happened to be Sheppard.
“The timing wasn't great of course, but that's the way it goes sometimes,” Hurelbrink said. “We felt we wanted to move quickly on it, but we wanted to make sure we found the right guy.”
Sheppard has a full workload in front of him.
He's scrambling to fill out his coaching staff with a couple of full-timers on the way next week and the program's been in a rut lately.
The Hawks have gone 0-9 in five of the last seven seasons, including last fall.
Sheppard said numbers may be the biggest challenge for now, but believes that should be bolstered in future years by the local JFL.
As for this year?
“We're looking to compete every single week,” Sheppard said. “I know the guys have a motto that nobody will outwork us. We know there's going to be St. T, Tuscola and teams like that who are sound year in and year out. We've kind of taken on that mentality, and so this fall we're just looking to take it one game at a time and compete and let people know this isn't the same Meridian team and these seniors are hungry and ready to play.”