Before the 2018 season had even started, a breakout season for Ze’Vian Capers seemed to be almost a foregone conclusion.
There were the factors of Capers getting older and bigger as a junior, certainly, but also of him moving into an offensive system that would make displays of his eye-popping athleticism less of a rare treat and more of a regular feature. Capers had a solid season as a sophomore at South Forsyth, to be sure, but that offense was clearly slanted towards running the ball, whether it be from running back Jared Honey or quarterback Cal Morris.
Denmark head coach Terry Crowder, on the other hand, found himself with a capable quarterback in Ben Whitlock and made his plan clear: The Danes were going to throw it, a lot. And Capers certainly didn’t squander his wealth of opportunities, hauling in 60 catches for a county-leading 1,182 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns and regularly showing the ability to singlehandedly shift the flow of a game.
“The offense kind of just fit our personality,” Capers said.
Capers had already established himself as a dangerous threat in the air, thanks to his 6-foot-4 frame, but he saw most important improvement this past year come in his ability to run after the catch. He was bigger than most defenders he encountered, and also faster. Capers’ signature play of the season came on a route over the middle, where he caught a short throw from Whitlock and veered across the field to the left sideline, jetting 81 yards for a score that would prove essential in the Danes’ 28-27 win over White County on Oct. 19.
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Capers saw the Danes leaning on him as a big-play threat, but also as a vocal leader, a role he was unaccustomed to at the start of the season. It was a challenge at times for a player who thinks of himself as more of a “lead-by-example” type, and he could see the importance of handling that role.
“If I wasn’t a vocal leader, the team’s energy and the team’s confidence just kind of diminished,” Capers said.
And when Denmark saw him as their main option, opposing teams quickly grew wise to that as well. Even as he was regularly blanketed in coverage, though, Capers could make something happen. He finished with fewer than six catches in a game just three times during the season, which included a win over Cherokee Bluff in which he scarcely played past the first half.
The key to that consistent production comes in Capers’ preparation.
“We work on that in practice a lot,” Capers said. “Coach (Thurston) Howard, he puts a lot of pressure on us. He wants us to make those big plays; he wants us to expand our game. In practice, I’m double-covered most of the time, so I kind of get that feel for the game. So when it comes to the game, it kind of comes naturally to me.”
At this point, big-time college programs have taken notice of Capers. His decision will likely come after his official visits, which he plans to take during the second semester of school, but Capers pegged his top four options as Clemson, Arkansas, Florida and South Carolina.
There are more, too, another sign that Capers’ junior season was everything that he and county fans were hoping for.
“It definitely lived up to the expectation,” Capers said.