Eagles Rock Run
Cross Leading ERHS’s Backfield
ELKTON — East Rockingham High School fullback Isaac Dean probably knows starting tailback Shannon Cross better than any of his teammates.
On the football field, Dean paved the way for Cross’ 25 carries for 153 yards and a touchdown last Friday against Strasburg, a 21-0 ERHS win.
On the baseball diamond, the two juniors, who are second cousins, are the shortstop (Dean) and second baseman (Cross) for the Eagles.
In the classroom, however, it’s a different story.
“He’s always goofing off,” Dean said of Cross. “The teachers usually split me and Shannon up.”
This season, the Eagles have Cross and Dean teamed up in a loaded backfield.
Cross, at 5-foot-7, 145 pounds, was not expecting to carry the ball 25 times in the opener. Alongside fellow tailback Bret Reel and senior quarterback Hunter Harman, the Eagles anticipated spreading the ball around to several players.
“It wasn’t really planned that way,” coach Donnie Coleman said of Cross’ big night. “I guess we just found something that worked and stuck with it. It’s not rocket science — if we get 4 or 5 yards, we’re going to run it again. After the end of the game, I was probably surprised by the amount of yards that he had and the carries.”
Coleman said that the team’s wing-T spread offense fits Cross perfectly, where he’s able to find running lanes behind an offensive line that averages 243 pounds.
Cross’ only concern once he got into the game?
“Just hold onto the ball and don’t fumble — just run,” Cross said. “I just worried a little about fumbling, and just get as many yards as I can when I get the ball.”
An All-Region B first-team pick in baseball as a sophomore, Cross played baseball this summer for the Blue Ridge Bombers, an 18-and-under travel team in the United States Specialty Sports Association.
“He’s got a lot of heart for the game, and whatever sport it is, he puts 100 percent on the field,” Harman said.
Both Cross and Dean watched from the stands as Harman and the Eagles went 8-4 and made the football playoffs in 2012. Cross opted not to play last season, instead focusing on lifting weights for baseball. He likely would not have gotten much playing time, as the Eagles had talented senior tailback Sharif Price getting most of the carries.
“I just gave it up, and I missed it,” Cross said. “I played total for about six years, and last year was the first year I hadn’t played. I missed it after not playing.”
The football and baseball coaches recruited Cross to play football again this year, Coleman said, and with Price gone, Cross has stepped into a starting role.
“He probably saw Sharif and John [Wright] and those guys [last year], but there’s an opportunity there this year, and he’s opened the door and come on in,” Coleman said. “I guess his M.O. is he’s kind of a gamer. I knew that kid had that competitive spirit, and I wanted him out on the field; I didn’t care how big he was.”
Harman, who likes Cross’ quick feet in the backfield, is happy to have several reliable tailbacks to hand the ball to.
“The kid’s got talent, he’s got moves — I’m just glad he decided to play,” said Harman, who said the team understood why Cross did not play last season. “A lot of sophomores coming in, they don’t get a lot of playing time. They all got to take their turn.”
After a year away from the game, it is finally Cross’ turn, and he’s making the most of it.