Many players come into the North-South game desperate to make a good showing for themselves, figuring a possible college scholarship hangs on the outcome.
Others come in full of fury, intending to make up for a senior season that ended agonizingly short of their goals.
But neither of those is Sherman’s J.T. Hensley, who will play defensive back, receiver and running back for the South in Saturday’s WCHS-TV 8/Fox 11 All-Star Football Classic at South Charleston High School. Hensley enters the game at peace with himself and the close of his high school career.
Hensley quarterbacked the Tide to a 9-1 regular season and the No. 7 seed in Class A last year, piling up yards and touchdowns along the way. Sherman ended its run with a 10-2 record and a berth in the playoff quarterfinals and Hensley ended with 1,547 rushing yards and 29 TDs. He also threw for 642 yards and three scores.
Yes, he wishes the Tide could have made it to the semifinals, but Hensley was content with what the senior class accomplished. Sherman posted records of 8-3, 9-3 and 10-2 his final three seasons, rescuing the program from an extended malaise.
Following Sherman’s 10-0 regular season as a Class AA school in 2009, the program fell upon hard times, going 7-53 over the next six seasons. So Hensley can take pride in what he and his classmates did.
“It was disappointing,’’ he said. “All of it was. But we knew we did something our school hasn’t done in a while.
“We made the playoffs three years in a row. We got our community out. We got community support. We had something for them to come out and watch, so it was more of a local thing to get everybody involved for our sake, to try and win a state championship.’’
Hensley said those three years of reviving the football program meant the world to him as an athlete and a Boone County resident.
“It means everything,’’ he said. “Little kids can look up to us and want to be football players. They want to get out there and they want to work. And that just brings the community and the crowds, and gets the school more money, and it’s better overall for our little community.’’
Hensley intends to play football in college, but wasn’t ready to announce his decision. He said competing in the North-South game gave him a chance to get his mojo back, and to play one more time with Tide teammate Justin Hawkins, a lineman for the South, as well as and other acquaintances.
“I’m using this game to get back into condition,’’ he said with a smile, “and back into rhythm. And to play again with some of my high school friends.’’