Nate Shackelford is no stranger to the quarterback position. The senior will finally see starting time at the helm of the team's offense as he replaces the graduated Landon Wolfe this season.
Shackelford started his high school football career at the coveted position but was thrown into the wide receiver slot as a junior.
"Last year as a junior, he was just too athletic to not put on the field, so he got a lot of field experience and a lot of good game experience, just not at quarterback," Hearts Coach Brett Hefner said.
Shackelford has eased into the quarterback role, Hefner added.
"It's been a pretty smooth transition because he's been in it for four years," the coach said. "He still worked at quarterback and played receiver."
Shackelford agrees. He said because he grew up playing quarterback, he is eager to resume that role.
In his time at the quarterback position last season, Shackelford threw for 38 yards. He averaged 16 yards a game as a receiver. As a sophomore quarterback, Shackelford had 25 throwing attempts with 192 yards completed.
Shackelford said he's excited about the group of receivers and running backs he has to work with. Years of playing football and other sports together has provided a chemistry within the team that Shackelford said will carry them through the season.
"Our main receiver is Tristan Duncan. We work really well together. He knows what he's doing. I trust him with the ball. Cameron (Kalber) is really athletic and quick off the run. He can get into spaces," Shackeldford said. At inside receiver, we've got Parker Wolfe and Holden Lewis. They're good route runners. (Running back) Logan Brown is a bruiser. He gets up the field, and he can run some people over."
Shackelford is backed by a well-rounded arsenal of receivers and running backs, but don't be surprised to see Shackelford running the ball himself. His time at receiver has allowed him to further delve into the routes and ball placement the receivers opt for.
Shackelford described himself as a mobile quarterback, meaning he's not afraid to move the ball up the field on his own. He said while Wolfe had a knack for launching the ball down the field, he'll focus more on moving the ball a distance at a time.
"I can throw the ball maybe not as far down the field — Landon could chuck that thing. It was beautiful watching him throw that thing down the field," Shackelford said. "We did throws and that's something I'm alright at, but out of the pocket, I think I can extend plays well this year, hopefully, and just bring something extra to the game."
Experience will boost the team throughout the season, Shackelford said. He believes that's the team's strongest aspect in the shadow of last year's play off run.
But Shackelford said last year's playoff stint and even this year's possible playoff appearance is far from the team's mind.
"We know that we're very capable of doing something like that again. We have the talent. We have the experience now. Right now, it's just one week at a time," Shackelford said. "Right now, we're not focused on a state championship. It's Breese and beating Breese. After that, it's going to be beat Lincoln, beat Jerseyville. Ultimately, that's what our goal is but we have to do it one week at a time."
Shackelford's focus is on winning this season. He said he will do what it takes to end each Friday night ahead on the scoreboard, whether that means " doing what Landon did or handing the ball off 40 times a game."
Shackelford said though much of the focus may be on him this season, he wants to keep his sights on what will make the team successful.
"I just want to do what I can do to help this team win, Shackelford said. "I hope it's an exciting year. I hope fans come out and enjoy it, and I hope we can go far."
EDITOR'S NOTE: Watch for this and other stories about area teams in the Effingham Daily News football preview, to be published on Friday.