At one time Deonte Shorts thought football just wasn’t his sport.
Shorts played football through middle school and decided to concentrate on basketball and baseball in high school. That changed almost two years ago.
“One of the assistant coaches saw him (Shorts) throw a baseball and asked if would come out for football,” second-year Southern Lab coach Nick Mitchell said. “That was before I got here. He was the only quarterback we had on our roster when I took the job.”
It is fair to say Mitchell and Shorts have grown together in their roles since. After finishing 7-4 a year, the duo is determined to lead the Kittens to a better record and a deeper postseason run.
“I’m not sure what I was thinking when I started high school,” Shorts said. “Now I love football. My goal is to play football and baseball in college. I also want to help lead this team as far as we can go.”
The 6-foot-2, 175-pound senior said the Kittens (5-1 overall, 1-0 in District 7-1A) can contend for the Class 1A title. Southern Lab is ranked eighth in 1A going into Friday’s 7-1A at Mount Hermon, a game that will set the table for bigger showdowns on the horizon: at home against Christian Life on Oct. 19 and No. 2 Kentwood on Nov. 2.
Shorts has played a big role in the Kittens success. To date, he has completed 60 of 118 passes for 945 yards with 13 touchdowns and five interceptions. He also has run for 365 yards on 53 carries with eight TDs.
Though he played quarterback in middle school, Shorts and Mitchell said it took time for him to find a comfort zone.
“I really didn’t feel comfortable until the ninth game last season,” Shorts said. “I was learning the offense and how to play the game again. Plus, there were a lot of seniors on the team. I felt like the best thing for me to do was keep my mouth shut and play.”
Shorts did just that, passing for 1,600 yards as Southern Lab advanced to the 1A playoffs. The Kittens lost to Ruston’s Cedar Creek in the first round.
Of course, that wasn’t the end of Shorts’ sports season. He played point guard for the SLHS basketball team that advanced to the 1A semifinals and was the catcher on the school’s baseball team.
Once those seasons were over, Shorts was back on the football field looking to hone his skills. In addition to playing quarterback, Shorts is also a cornerback.
“Deonte has come a long way since last year,” said Mitchell. “It took some time, but he’s using the leadership skills he already had from basketball and baseball. He’s throwing the ball better and reading coverages better.
“Competing in 7-on-7 was good for him. We played in tournaments in several places (including LSU and Southern), and he also put in a lot of time here at school with the receivers. They worked on timing. They watched film.”
Shorts spent time working with three receivers who are also seniors: Juan Smith, Maalik Marshall and Marquise Ricard. Another receiver, freshman Curtlan Williams has also emerged as a top target. Williams has 27 catches for 400 yards and five TDs, while Ricard has 13 catches for 229 yards and five TDs.
The fact Shorts enjoys studying film and taking apart a game doesn’t surprise Mitchell. A honor student with a 3.3 overall grade-point average, including a 3.0 in core classes, he plans a college major in engineering.
“I feel like I have a responsibility to this team,” Shorts said. “It’s different than last year.
“I still have things to learn about coverages, and I need to stay in the pocket a little longer than I do. But it’s my role to lead the team and do whatever I can to help us win.”
East Feliciana’s Kendell Beckwith will receive his Under Armour Bowl invitational on Thursday, while a similar ceremony for University High’s Tim Williams is now set for Oct. 17.
Under Armour officials will present Beckwith with his jersey during a 9 a.m. Thursday ceremony at the school, according to a news release. The Oct. 17 ceremony for Williams is set for 3 p.m. at the U-High’s practice field, said UHS Athletic Director Jill White.
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