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James Sheehan drives Antioch's prolific offense - FlagSpin

James Sheehan drives Antioch’s prolific offense

Antioch senior James Sheehan knows quarterbacks can get an outsized share of the credit for teams’ successes.

Sheehan accepts that he isn’t one of those quarterbacks, as he takes a back seat to prolific running backs Nick Day and Martin Cohen.

“I love getting those guys the ball,” Sheehan said. “Me not having those stats doesn’t bother me one bit. It’s just as satisfying for me to give the team a better chance to succeed.”

As Day and Cohen rack up yards and touchdowns, it can be difficult to quantify Sheehan’s importance to the Northern Lake County Conference champion Sequoits (9-0), who were ranked No. 7 in Class 5A in the poll by The Associated Press last week.

But Antioch’s offensive success begins with Sheehan, whose intelligence and in-depth knowledge of the system have given coach Brian Glashagel the confidence to determine what plays are run.

“I usually give him two plays to choose from, whether they’re runs or passes, and it’s up to him to check into what he thinks will work best,” Glashagel said. “It’s a lot of ‘if this, then that.’

“He has a great feel for what will work, and he’s bailed me out a bunch of times with new calls.”

Sheehan said he thinks the play-calling arrangement gives Antioch its best chance to succeed.

Antioch’s Nick Day, left, gets the ball from quarterback James Sheehan during a Northern Lake County Conference game at Wauconda on Friday, Sept. 29, 2023.

“If we didn’t have these options, you maybe could get stuck in a play you don’t want to run, and that results in basically losing a play,” he said. “A lot of times, it’s based on how the defensive line or (defensive backs) are set up. But it means a lot that there’s that trust in me.”

Sheehan has earned that trust, gradually rising as a quarterback through Antioch’s lower levels.

One milepost on Sheehan’s journey came right around this time last year, when he joined then-senior starter Quade Moll and Glashagel for film sessions at lunchtime to prep for Antioch’s playoff opener.

“We would watch film the whole hour, and I would sit and listen to them talk and gain knowledge,” Sheehan said. “I took that as ‘this is the way I have to prepare’ so that we wouldn’t miss a beat this year.”

The Sequoits, who are seeded third in the 5A playoffs and will open against 14th-seeded Englewood STEM (5-4) at home at 7 p.m. Friday, haven’t missed a beat this season. In fact, they’re even better after going 6-4 last year.

The offense has been particularly dominant. Antioch has scored 472 points, averaging 52.4 per game, while allowing 14.6.

Day and Cohen can make the offense look like it’s in a video game. Each has eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing, and they have combined for 45 rushing TDs. Sheehan, meanwhile, has picked his spots. He has completed 26 of 62 passes for 536 yards with eight TDs and just one interception, and he has run for four TDs.

Sheehan considers Antioch’s 48-6 conference win against Lakes in Week 3 a turning point for his confidence. His long TD pass to Aiden Van Alstine on the game’s first play did the trick.

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“I took a lot of mental reps last year, but it took me a couple games to settle in,” Sheehan said. “Things really started to click after that game. We haven’t looked back.”

Two-way lineman JT Gobeyn has seen Sheehan’s development firsthand. Film study is one area where Gobeyn thinks Sheehan sets himself apart, to the extent that coaches sometimes don’t let Sheehan answer their questions because they want others to arrive at the answers.

“He puts a lot into his preparation, and another aspect that makes you raise an eyebrow is that he insists on lifting with the linemen,” Gobeyn said. “He always wants to put the weight on that we’re doing. He’s always working on his weakest areas.”

There aren’t many of those, it seems. Sheehan is a member of both the National Honor Society and the National English Honor Society, and he is the team’s recipient of the conference’s sportsmanship award.

Sheehan has also caught the coaching bug. He is the offensive coordinator for the senior powderpuff team and helped coach a team in the Antioch Youth Flag Football League in the spring.

“That’s really cool because we run variations of some plays we run in high school, so it gives them a little taste,” Sheehan said. “All of those activities will hopefully help translate to success in the real world.”

Steve Reaven is a freelance reporter for the News-Sun.

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Travis Burnett

Travis Burnett

A pioneer in the flag football community, Travis helped co-found the Flag Football World Championship Tour, FlagSpin and USA Flag. Featuring 15+ years of content creation for the sport of flag football, creating and managing the largest flag football tournaments on the planet, coaching experience at the youth and adult level as well as an active player with National and World Championship level experience.

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