Bobcats’ Mackey explodes onto scene at new position
By Eric Sprott
SENECA — When Hal Capps and his coaching staff took stock of the Seneca High School football team’s offense following spring practice, there was a lot to like.
But, at the same time, there was something missing.
With a few months to go until the start of his second season at the helm, Capps was confident in quarterback Cole Bay, and he had some nice, proven pieces at receiver in Aireeze Alexander and Coleman Smith. Add in the versatile Braden Galloway, who could slide in to any number of positions for the Bobcats, and things were looking pretty good.
But a hole existed at running back, where Seneca had rotated three players during the spring, with the prevailing thought being the Bobcats would go with a by-committee approach.
“We were looking for that three-headed monster at quarterback, running back and receiver,” Capps said. “We felt like we had to have a special kid at running back to go with our offense.
“Pretty much right after our spring game we went through what we had, and we felt like we needed one more special player on offense.”
While he was an unproven commodity in the offensive backfield, Jeremiah Mackey — a starter the previous season in the Bobcats’ defensive backfield — was the one who got the call to be that special player.
And he was certainly special in his first season as Seneca’s workhorse back, as the junior helped the Bobcats to a third consecutive Western 3A region championship — a first in school history — rushing 234 times for 1,540 yards and 12 touchdowns on the way to being named the region’s player of the year.
Also The Journal’s All-Mountain Lakes Football Player of the Year, Mackey said his junior season was a memorable one, and he was happy to switch sides of the ball after starting at safety for the Bobcats as a sophomore.
“It was a great experience, especially since I was a defensive back and switched to running back,” he said. “I was getting comfortable (at safety), but I was thinking about my team, too. I wanted to do what was best for the team, and I knew we had the players to fill the spots at defensive back.
“The coaches had a meeting, and they wanted the ball in my hands. I was happy to do what they asked, so I went over and started playing running back, and I loved it.”
Mackey wasn’t a complete stranger to running back, as he played some there as a freshman in addition to his defensive duties. But Capps wasn’t at Seneca that season, as Mackey’s transition was truly uncharted territory in his eyes.
But, of course, he saw something he liked to sign off on the position change.
“We felt like he gave us the best opportunity there, and to be honest I had some concerns,” Capps said. “But he plays bigger than he is, and he just runs so dog-gone hard, He’s physical with his running style, but he outruns the second and third levels when he gets there, and that’s very impressive.
“His big-play opportunity gave us a great boost offensively.”
For Mackey, the learning curve wasn’t a big one, as he said he felt comfortable fairly early in fall camp. And by the time he heard the crowd in the Bobcats’ season opener for the first time, he said he was absolutely ready to go.
“I just had to get used to getting hit again,” he admitted. “I was used to doing all the hitting, but after a while, you get used to it again, and I just used my speed. But I just give all the credit to my offensive linemen, because without them, I wouldn’t have gotten the numbers I had.”
For his part, Smith — who recently took part in the Touchstone Energy Bowl — heaped plenty of praise on Mackey for the job he did in his first season with the offense.
“He’s an incredible athlete, and he can score from anywhere on the field,” the senior said of Mackey. “His speed is insane, and he could play anywhere for us. He’s one of the hardest workers on the team, and he never doesn’t have a smile on his face.
“In practice, he’s always walking around laughing and talking to people, and he’s just got really, really good energy.”
Now, after making the move to running back only at the start of fall camp, Mackey has an entire offseason to focus his energy on preparing himself to help lead the Seneca offense. And needless to say, expectations will be high after his breakthrough season as a junior.
“Going into next year, my challenge for him is to continue to make good grades, continue to get bigger and stronger and work on his craft,” Capps said. “I’ve not been disappointed in him in the weeks following the last game. I expect him to be a leader in the weight room and in our school, and he hasn’t disappointed me yet.
“We have high expectations, and he’s going to have to handle some of the pressure of that, and he will. Everyone knows Jeremiah Mackey now, and he’s made a name for himself. He has to step his game up even more now.”
And if his junior season was any indication, Mackey will be able to answer that call next fall.
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