Talented and together.
The Kennedy Catholic football team’s receiving corps has both qualities. It’s a big reason the Lancers are the third-ranked Class 4A team in the state and could end the school’s drought of state titles in football.
The junior class dominates the receivers group, led by some of the nation’s most coveted college recruits in Jabez Tinae, Junior Alexander and Reed Shumpert. Senior Justin Baker, a California commit as an all-purpose back, rounds out the talented starting-receiver group.
With all those targets, five-star quarterback Sam Huard has the Lancers’ offense spinning at high revolutions, averaging 46 points and 470.4 yards per game. Huard averages 316.9 yards passing per game.
“I think that they are the best receiving corps in the country,” said Kennedy Catholic coach Sheldon Cross, who brought his Air Raid offense to the program four seasons ago. “I think they all are cohesive, and they all are exceptionally competitive. They are all so dynamic, and they can score on every single play.
“They just add so much confidence to our entire program.”
Kennedy Catholic (7-0, 4-0 NPSL) is playing for the NPSL Mountain Division title Saturday at 5 p.m. against Kentwood (6-1, 4-0) at Highline Stadium. The Lancers look to end a three-game losing streak to the Conquerors, who have rebounded after a rare bad season.
Opponents must feel like they are going up against a college lineup, especially at the skill positions. That’s because four receivers in the Kennedy lineup are future Division I athletes to go with Huard, a Washington commit.
How does that much talent remain happy, divvying up Huard’s heaves? By winning and celebrating each other.
“Those guys all love each other,” Cross said. “I think those guys are a reflection of the school, and the school is a family. I think those guys really do feel like they are family and that they are brothers.
“They are all there for each other. These guys are really playing for each other.”
Said Alexander: “There’s never been an ‘I.’ It’s always been an ‘us.’ We look at ourselves as the group. We’re the show. If one person’s eating, we’re all eating. We support each other.”
Alexander and Tinae have seven D-I offers each and rank No. 5 and No. 9 for 2021 recruits in Washington, according to 247Sports.com. Shumpert checks in No. 21 for 2021. Baker, who has committed to Cal, comes in at No. 11 for the Class of 2020.
“We all have our own personal goals, and we all want good games, but we love each other enough to let the ball spread out and whoever goes, goes,” said Tinae, who has offers from Cal, USC, Oregon, Utah, Colorado, Washington State and Nebraska. “I’m really confident in Sam. We all work like one instrument. We all work together and get the ball evenly distributed. If not, that’s OK as long as we are getting the job done. It’s about what the team needs.”
Huard, ranked the No. 7 player in the nation in the 2021 recruiting class, spreads the wealth.
Alexander, the team’s tall, in-the-air target at 6 feet 2, 185 pounds, leads the receivers with 36 catches for 658 yards and 15 touchdowns. Baker has 36 receptions for 397 yards and four TDs.
“Sam and I have been playing together since eighth grade,” said Alexander, who holds offers from Utah, Utah State, Cal, Arizona, Washington State, Nevada and Sacramento State. “We’ve always kind of had that connection.”
Tinae has hauled in 30 passes for 606 yards and two TDs, and Shumpert has snared 24 passes for 323 yards and nine TDs.
“It’s the most unselfish receiving corps that you will find,” Huard said. “That’s the thing that makes them so great. They all complement each other. They all push each other.”
Tinae, who has great hands and can make the tough catch in traffic, suffered a ruptured spleen last March while at a 7-on-7 football competition in Florida. He’s made a full recovery, but it was a hurdle for sure.
“I took a hit to the side and that injury almost killed me,” said Tinae, who missed about three months with the injury. “It was pretty close for me having surgery. It was scary. Being by myself in Florida and in the hospital, the pain went further than just being hurt.”