High-SchoolFootball: Barry J. Sanders
September, 30, 2011
By Jon Mahoney | ESPN.com
Photograph by Andreas Laszlo KonrathDefenses have had few answers for Heritage Hall (Oklahoma City) teammates Sterling Shepard & Barry J. Sanders.Heritage Hall (Oklahoma City) senior football stars Sterling Shepard and Barry J. Sanders are arguably the nation’s top gridiron tandem. The ESPNU 150 recruits went into this season with plenty of hype and they've more than backed it up, accounting for 17 touchdowns as the Chargers have cruised to a 4-0 start.
As has been the case through most of their high school football careers, Shepard and Sanders have found themselves on the sidelines in the second half of games this year due to Heritage Hall’s big first-half leads.
Fortunately, the precocious pair can find plenty of competition in practice.
This story originally appeared in the October issue of ESPNHS magazine.
The toughest competition Barry J. Sanders and Sterling Shepard have seen during their time on the Heritage Hall (Oklahoma City) football team hasn’t come on game day.
The Chargers -- winners of two state titles in the past three years -- frequently dominate their opponents, meaning Sanders and Shepard are often on the sideline by the second half.
“The biggest problem I have is getting them enough touches,” Heritage Hall coach Andy Bogert says.
It’s a nice problem to have. But for elite players like Sanders and Shepard, half a game doesn’t satisfy their competitive appetites. Fortunately for them, there’s practice, which serves as a game of "Can You Top This?"
Sanders and Shepard -- both two-way skill-position players ranked in the ESPNU 150 -- always go head-to-head in position drills, and sometimes it gets heated. Bogert won’t let them go against each other during the full-contact portion of practice for fear of a major collision.
“They fight it out every single day,” their coach says. “If one of them gets the better of the other, they’re talking. It’s pretty entertaining.”
Sanders and Shepard use the battles as a way to gauge their skill levels.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Sanders says. “I don’t think I’ll face another receiver like him.”
The two also share a bond in that their fathers were once gridiron stars. Sanders’ dad, Barry, is a Hall of Fame running back. Derrick Shepard, who died when Sterling was 6, starred at Oklahoma and played in the NFL for five years.
While their one-on-one practice matchups are intense, the close friends are glad to be on the same side come game time.
“We love playing [together],” Shepard says. “It makes our jobs a lot easier.”
ESPNU 150 Rank: 57
411: Shepard was a touchdown machine last season, recording 34 total TDs, including four in the Class 3A state title game. The Oklahoma commit put up 1,015 receiving yards and added 571 yards on the ground. On defense, he tallied 103 tackles and eight INTs.
BARRY J. SANDERS
ESPNU 150 Rank: 77
411: Sanders played in just seven games last fall because of a torn ligament in his right foot, but he still managed to rush for 1,168 yards and 16 touchdowns. He's considering Oklahoma State, Florida State, Alabama and Stanford.
GO WATCH: Check out Barry J. Sanders and Sterling Shepard for yourself when their Heritage Hall team takes on Bethany (Okla.) on Oct. 28 at 8 p.m. ET on ESPNU.