South Forsyth junior Davis Shanley spent 51 quarters of the season torching defensive backs with his arm, swindling them his feet and gluing a team together despite being the younger, sillier kid on a team full of seniors—seniors that had assigned a destiny to the War Eagles football team, one that included a region championship and a run through the state playoffs. He finished the season with outstanding numbers: 2,348 passing yards, 25 touchdown passes, a 63-percent completion percentage, 623 rushing yards and eight scores on the ground. Expectations were met, the bar was raised, but Shanley’s going to spend the next few months thinking long and hard about the 52nd and final quarter of the season.
“That fourth quarter really took a big chunk out of me,” Shanley said. “I felt like I let my team down. All of those seniors who had brought me up to the player I’ve been. I felt like we got so far, and then because of me it was all over.”
It would be nearly impossible to erase the memory of those last 10 minutes against Colquitt County, the eventual Class AAAAAA state champions and the No. 1 team in the USA Today’s final national rankings. But perception is simply a tool in this instance. Shanley, with his brilliance and quite possibly the most improbable play of the season, where he eluded seven Packer defenders and spun in a circle twice to finally find his receiver Jalen Camp for a 63-yard score, was the signal caller that got the War Eagles farther against the juggernaut from Moultrie than any other team—it was true, when the Packers stood at the podium in the Georgia Dome two weeks later, South was the only team in the 2015 postseason to lead Colquitt County in the fourth quarter.
Despite three interceptions in the game’s waning moments, Shanley was the guy that almost gave South an upset victory that the entire state would have talked about for years to come.
Somewhere between a historic victory and a fourth quarter collapse is the mind of Shanley, not the junior, but the soon-to-be senior and, soon after that, a hopeful college quarterback. Next year he won’t be the young pup in the litter, but the alpha, and he’s combining reflection with determination to prepare for his final year as a War Eagle.
Question: What does it mean to you to get the Forsyth County News Offensive Player of the Year award?
Shanley: “I am very grateful that I did win this award because, actually at the beginning of the year, I didn’t think we’d get as far as we did. Credit to all my wide receivers, they were the ones who actually caught the balls. It was a long journey, a lot of hard work to actually beat out Austin Harvey, who was a great QB, an amazing guy too. I mean, I won the starting job and kind of got thrown out there, and it worked out I guess.”
Question: What was this season like for you?
Shanley: “It exceeded my expectations. This whole game is about a mindset, and having the mindset to achieve anything you want to, and that’s what we did. We wanted to be region champs, and once we got that it was to win a state playoff game, and once we did that we just wanted to keep going. We never stopped believing in ourselves.”
Question: Talk about the crazy scramble play in the first quarter against Colquitt County. Did you know you could do that?
Shanley: “I was planning on throwing the ball away, actually. I saw a tiny crease at the last second and kind of instinctively ran to it. Next thing I knew I was in the open again, threw the ball in a super tight window, which was risky, and Jalen made a great play, caught it and took off running.”
Question: Being a junior surrounded by senior skill position players, what did you learn from them?
Shanley: “It was an honor to play with them, honestly. I didn’t think I’d win this. I thought Jalen Camp would. He’s a great football player. You’re sort of the oddball in the offense when you’re a junior and everyone else is older. (Cameron) Kline was grabbing all of those offers, Jalen is going to Georgia Tech, Sam committed to KSU, and you’re sitting there thinking, what do I do to get to where they are? It’s a process, and it’s about being confident and pushing yourself.”
Question: What are you doing to prepare for your final season with South?
Shanley: “There are always areas to grow. Better decision making, making sure everybody knows what they’re doing on the field. Making sure you’re leading, doing your job, and making sure everyone follows you.”