Protecting the quarterback

Seniors Damarea Sheppard, Michael Coronati prepare for senior season


Daniel Angeletti

Seniors Michael Coronati (56) and Damarea Sheppard (74) complete a lineman drill during practice on Thursday, Sept. 10.

The players are nervous. After years of waiting for this moment, they step onto the field for their first varsity football practice. They are ready for the season ahead and ready to help their team any way they can. All they can think about is the season ahead and what it holds. 

Senior football players Michael Coronati and Damarea Sheppard made the varsity team as offensive linemen. All of their hard work and dedication has paid off as they will play football. Coronati and Sheppard hope to bring a state championship home.

“I think they will do a good job of scouting and working hard to help give the best possible looks we will see week in and week out,” tight ends coach Tracy Fite said. “Getting to state is a very tough task. We will have to be really good each and every week to even have a chance at that.”

With five seasons together under their belt, Coronati and Sheppard plan to finish what they started.

“Damarea is definitely one of those teammates that stands beside you no matter what,” Coronati said. “He makes sure you push through anything. He is an amazing friend and brother.”

Coronati and Sheppard started playing together when middle school came around for the Durham Dragons. During that time, they grew a close friendship.

“As a teammate, he’s very good at pushing people and helping people understand we have to keep going; it’s just something we have to do and he helps motivate people,” Sheppard said. “He’s a good friend. He’s not what most people would call normal, he’s not weird, he’s just special in his own way. There just isn’t another Michael.” 

Both of the athletes have expressed their plans for after high school. They are keeping the plan of coaching as well.

“I want to be a coach and an educator so I can teach young men how to be responsible gentlemen in society like what my coaches did for me,” Coronati said. “They showed us how to be a man of society and I want to do the same. If that doesn’t work out I have also thought about being a mechanic for the fact I have also loved cars and working on cars.”

Sheppard has the same goals for after school, and like Coronati, his plans involve football. Although, COVID-19 puts them in a place of doubt for the season ahead.

“I think my football career depends on this virus,” Sheppard said. “Ultimately, it is going to come down to whether or not I can work to where I need to be.”

As the two athletes navigate the varsity atmosphere, Fite strives to help them find success on and off the field.

“[The number one goal is] to teach them and help them get a high school education,” Fite said. “Then, help them set goals for their future. I want to help show them what it takes to be a good man, so when they become husbands and fathers they know what it takes for them to be successful. There are also a lot of life lessons that are taught within the game of football. We work to help them learn some of those [including] being accountable, setting goals and working to achieve them.”