Sheehan leads Cary-Grove to undefeated season, Class 6A state crown with steady play, toughness
Wins and losses and statistics are an important part of athletics.
But sometimes, it's the stuff beyond those numerical jigsaw puzzles that makes all the difference in the world.
Yes, Cary-Grove senior quarterback Jameson Sheehan has the numbers and the resume that now includes a Class 6A state football championship on it -- at the expense of what was, as of a day after Thanksgiving, thought to be by many the best team in the state regardless of classification (East St. Louis).
But talk to those around Sheehan and those who have had the unfortunate experience of trying to defend him, and it's evident why he turned in a solid-gold performance that helped propel the Trojans back to one those eight coveted seats in Illinois high school football first class.
"Jamo is a very talented player and one of the best leaders I know," Cary-Grove senior defensive back Toby Splitt said. "He understands his role as a quarterback, as well as stepping into that lead role to understand all the positions on the field. He was a huge part of our success. He was a leader on and off the field. He was one of our biggest motivators and always picked up teammates when they were down. He led by example by finishing plays, and always reassured us of our biggest goal: to win state."
And this from Cary-Grove senior offensive lineman Max Katsenos: "Obviously, Jamo is a very talented athlete, but what makes him such a special player is that he was a great leader and always had the faith of our teammates. Jamo always commanded the huddle and brought great energy to our team that was contagious. He always had faith in us that we were going to make big plays. Whenever someone messed up, Jamo was the first one to reassure everyone and helped us to refocus."
As part of the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association all-state committee and the group's spring clinic book director, Burlington Central coach Brian Melvin was on the sidelines at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb for the Cary-Grove-East St. Louis title game and had a front-row seat to Sheehan's wizardry.
"He was so consistent," Melvin said. "Very rarely did he make mistakes. As I watched the state game from the sidelines, I was so impressed with how composed he was from drive one. He is a true leader and a heck of a player."
Sheehan, the Captain of the Daily Herald's 2021 Fox Valley All-Area football team, passed for 930 yards this season on only 78 attempts, throwing 13 touchdown passes and but 1 pick. He also ran 97 times for 906 yards and 16 rushing touchdowns, helming Cary-Grove's potent triple-option offense that steamrollered opponent Ad infinitum with senior fullback Nick Hissong leading the way with 1,717 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns -- 14 of those coming in the playoffs.
Not bad for someone who admits his eye's originally widened at the thought of learning Cary-Grove's triple option.
"It was a little different. A little overwhelming," said Sheehan, a 2021 IHSFCA Class 6A all-state first-team pick and an all-Fox Valley Conference selection. "When I was a freshman, I didn't understand the whys. Every play is set up for something new. Once I figured out the whys, then I really understood the offense -- mentally I kind of took off with it. Getting coached by coach (Brad) Seaburg and everybody else on the staff helped me every step of the way. Every day I learned something new. Coach Seaburg and his staff are phenomenal. I learned from the best coaches around."
Sheehan said once he learned the triple option, other important aspects started falling into place.
"What I really liked about the offense is once you kind of figure it out, you really get to understand the defense, and you can pick and choose which plays are good," he explained. "I really got a great feel for the reads, especially in the state game. The fullback (Hissong) is your best friend. We practiced our meshing and I got comfortable and developed great confidence because we were constantly repping everything."
Seaburg kept a close eye on Sheehan's movements during the state title game.
"In that game he was encouraging everybody when they were coming off the field and high-fiving guys," he said. "He was always engaged with us. We had so many blowouts this year, but he was always there cheering on other guys and watching the younger guys play. That's not normal behavior for a 16-, 17-, 18-year-old athlete. He's a very encouraging kid -- a great leader."
Seaburg also was impressed with Sheehan's development on the strength front.
"Physically he really improved himself in terms of strength and speed," he said. "He came into high school 150 or 160 pounds and now he's all of 195 pounds. It's the durability part of it. You take so many hits, you have to put yourself in a position physically to be in the best shape you can be. He's deceiving in his size and strength. He's very strong. He did everything he could to get himself ready mentally and physically."
Jacobs coach Brian Zimmerman also had high praise for Sheehan, also an accomplished baseball player who has been clocked on the mound in the low 90s.
"He can run, he can throw, he's very intelligent and knows how to run the triple option to almost perfection," Zimmerman said. "There are minimal mistakes that are made by him and he reads defenses well, plus there is his size and power. He is difficult to bring down and has excellent breakaway speed."
Cary-Grove senior defensive back Ben Hurt-Haller labeled Sheehan's presence extremely important to the team's success this fall, "in the way he ran the ball and left everything out on the field," he said. "Jamo always led by example and paved the way for our team's success in showing his hard work and dedication, which rubbed off on everyone."
Splitt added: "Jamo is a very talented player and is one of the best leaders I know. He understands his role as a quarterback, as well as stepping into that lead role to understand all the positions on the field. He is a very trustworthy player, and executes his job to a high standard. Jamo was a huge part of our success."
Cary-Grove senior offensive-defensive lineman Zach Petko, a fellow Class 6A all-stater, noted its best to watch a play on tape to completion when it involved Sheehan.
"Many times you can see him on film not just carrying out a fake, but running down field to make a block for the running back. Not many quarterbacks will do that. He was pivotal to the success our offense had this year."
Sheehan, who noted he has a scholarship offer from Southern Missouri for baseball and one from The Citadel for football, said he would like to be remembered at Cary-Grove as a great leader, "and a person who demonstrated the three rules at Cary -- do right, do your best and treat others the way you want to be treated.
"I'm sad it's over, but I was happy with how it ended. It's anything and everything we have ever wanted. Winning a state title was our goal since we were little kids."
Sheehan also referenced a slogan that has residence in the Cary-Grove alumni building near the north end zone at Al Bohrer Field -- the same building that houses the program's ring of honor that lists each player who gets an award such as all-conference or all-state. Sheehan's name is up there.
"Today's the day to exercise your will," the slogan reads.
And with Sheehan at the quarterback and leadership controls this season, Cary-Grove did just that and has a big state title trophy to prove it.
THE FOX VALLEY ALL-AREA TEAM
Name School Pos. Yr.
Axel Bernal, South Elgin, MLB, Sr.
Jacob Bottarini, Marmion, LB/WB, Sr.
Jalen Buckley, Batavia, RB, Sr.
Nasir Canty, HD Jacobs, RB, Sr.
Troyer Carlson, Kaneland, QB, Soph.
Jerred Durian, Marmion, C/DL, Sr.
Michael Estrada, Streamwood, RB/LB, Sr.
Tyler Fikis, Hampshire, QB, Jr.
Sam Gagne, Kaneland, WR/DB, Sr.
Paolo Gennarelli, St. Charles North, OL/DL, Sr.
Nathan Henry, Aurora Christian, OT, Sr.
Nick Hissong, Cary-Grove, FB, Sr.
Thomas Hubbard, Bartlett, OL, Sr.
Max Kaufman, St. Edward, OG/DT, Sr.
Ben Ludlum, HD Jacobs, RB, Sr.
Dontrelle Maxie, Larkin, QB, Sr.
Clem McCullough, Elgin, QB/WR/DB/LB, Sr.
Shane Moran, Crystal Lake South, LB, Sr.
Zach Petko, Cary-Grove, OL/DE, Sr.
Carter Powelson, Geneva, RB, Sr.
Anthony Roberts, Batavia, DB, Sr.
Gavin Sarvis, Burlington Central, OLB/RB, Sr.
* Jameson Sheehan, Cary-Grove, QB, Sr.
Matt Tarr, West Aurora, LB, Sr.
* Honorary All-Area Captain
Wade Abrams, Cary-Grove, SB/RB, Sr.
Cam Ajazi, Aurora Christian, RB/LB/KR, Sr.
Chet Andrews, Huntley, DL, Sr.
Fikayo Afolarin, Batavia, NG, Sr.
Patryk Barnas, Hampshire, OL, Sr.
Trey Beebe, Aurora Christian, WR/CB, Sr.
Gabriel Bemont, Bartlett, LB/WR, Sr.
Ryan Boe, Batavia, QB, Soph.
Andy Burburija, Crystal Lake South, OL/DL, Soph.
Carson Busto, St. Edward, WR/DB, Jr.
Daniel Chojnowski, Hampshire, OLB, Sr.
Chevelle Clements, Larkin, DB, Sr.
Colin Desmet, Cary-Grove, LB/FB, Sr.
Dominick DeBlasio, Kaneland, WR, Soph.
Ivan Erickson, Marmion, DE, Jr.
Hector Flores, Larkin, LB, Jr.
AJ Gaca, St. Charles East, LB, Sr.
Eric Gomez, Streamwood, OL, Sr.
Xander Gramarossa, Hampshire, ILB, Sr.
Hunter Guyon, Dundee-Crown, TE, Sr.
Tim Hancock, West Aurora, LB, Sr.
Matt Harris, Marmion, OT, Sr.
Michael Hibbler, Larkin, DE, Sr.
Gage Homola, Hampshire, TE/OLB, Soph.
George Litgen, St. Charles North, OLB, Sr.
Tyler Jansey, Batavia, LB, Jr.
Aric Johnson, Kaneland, WR/DB, Soph.
Jalen Jones, South Elgin, WR/DB, Sr.
Max Katsenos, Cary-Grove, OL, Sr.
Henry Kennedy, Dundee-Crown, DB, Jr.
Justin Kowalak, Crystal Lake South, QB., Sr.
Anthony Kuceba, Marmion, DB, Sr.
Kevin Landa, Crystal Lake South, K, Sr.
Cooper LePage, Crystal Lake South, WR/DB, Jr.
Nate Majewski, Burlington Central, SS, Sr.
Dashaun Manning, Huntley, DB, Jr.
Isaac Martinez, Streamwood, RB/FS, Sr.
Gino Martino, West Aurora, QB, Jr.
Nick Martino, Huntley, DB, Sr.
Kelton McCaslin, St. Charles East, LB, Sr.
Jalen Miller, Larkin, LB, Soph.
Mason Montgomery, South Elgin, RB/WR, Jr.
Alex Panico, Kaneland, DB, Jr.
Dane Pardridge, Marmion, WR, Sr.
Mason Pawelko, Geneva, DB, Sr.
Austin Pierce, West Aurora, DB, Sr.
Spencer Prats, Batavia, OL, Sr.
Micahel Prokos, Crystal Lake South, WR/DB, Soph.
Keegan Otte, Dundee-Crown, RB, Jr.
Noah Riley, Cary-Grove, TE, Sr.
Ty Risberg, St. Charles East, OL/DL, Sr.
Richard Rodriguez, Streamwood, OL, Sr.
Paulie Rudolph, HD Jacobs, LB, Soph.
Jack Sadowsky, Batavia, LB, Jr.
AJ Sanders, Batavia, WR, Sr.
Tyler Sapit, Batavia, DL, Sr.
Joey Scrivani, HD Jacobs, LB, Soph.
Will Seibert, HD Jacobs, OT/DT, Jr.
Matt Slou, Kaneland, OL/DL, Sr.
Johnny Spallasso, Kaneland, DB, Jr.
Toby Splitt, Cary-Grove, DB, Sr.
Grant Stec, HD Jacobs, TE/DL, Soph.
Blake Stempkowski, Geneva, LB, Sr.
Jamarion Stubbs, Larkin, WR, Sr.
Drew Surges, St. Charles North, RB-OLB, Jr.
Jack Tanke, Huntley, FB, Sr.
Tyler Tuisl, Geneva, WR, Sr.
Nathan VanWitzenburg, Crystal Lake South, RB, Sr.
Zach Vodraska, Hampshire, DB/WR, Sr.
Joe Volenec, HD Jacobs, OT, Sr.
Liam Waco, Cary-Grove, DB, Sr.
Jack Westrom, Aurora Central Catholic, LB/OT, Sr.
Ryan Whitwell, Batavia, DB, Jr.
Devin Yeats, Hampshire, TE/WR, Sr.