Seneca’s Mackey looking to finish senior year strong
By Alex Maminakis
SENECA — Perhaps no play call displays the trust that the Seneca High School football team has in running back Jeremiah Mackey more so than the one called on Sept. 13 this season at Palmetto.
With 16 seconds to play on the Mustangs’ 20 yard line and no timeouts left, the Bobcats needed a touchdown, so they put the ball in the hands of their playmaker and let him run.
Mackey scored two plays later to lead Seneca to a 44-43 win — its first of the season.
“That just shows they’ve got confidence and faith in me, so I was just proud to be able to get the ball and get the job done,” Mackey recalled this week of that final drive. “That game, I wanted to win. I was determined.”
The senior running back has been Seneca’s offensive workhorse since taking over starting duties in 2017, and he hasn’t slowed down since.
As a first-year starter last season as a junior, Mackey earned Western 3A Player of the Year honors with 1,371 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns to his name, averaging 6.75 yards per carry.
This year, through eight games — Seneca is 4-4 and 3-0 in region play — Mackey has racked up 695 yards and 14 touchdowns to help pace the Bobcat offense.
For the last two seasons, coach Hal Capps and the Bobcats have always been able to rely on No. 23 to get them yards and lead them to wins.
“He doesn’t like being tackled, because that’s a loss,” Capps said. “So he runs extremely hard, and I always thought he played bigger than he is, and I think that’s one thing that’s a God gift to him and (credit to) his work ethic in getting to that point where he’s strong enough that he can do some damage.
“I’m not sure if we’d have won eight games (last season) without Jeremiah Mackey. He’s been a big part of our offense.”
“If we ever get in a tough situation, we’ll just give it to J-Mack and he just does what he does best — get yards, get first downs and touchdowns,” quarterback Cole Bay added.
Mackey has a knack for picking up consecutive short yardage runs before breaking free for a big chunk of yards — often long touchdowns. He said those long scoring runs never get old, especially when he does it at home in front of a cheering home fan base.
While Mackey’s speed is an obvious talent, Capps said his power ability — for a smaller back — gives him an advantage as a runner.
“I’ll be honest with you, he runs a lot bigger than he is,” Capps said. “He’ll truck you, now. He’ll run right through an arm tackle. There’s some deceptiveness about him, without a doubt.”
Mackey pointed to his vision and agility as a few of his strengths, as well, but his overall talent and effort is tough to quantify.
“It’s not easy being the running back, but hey, you’ve just got to be tough,” he said
Mackey made the transition from defensive back to running back in 2017 after Seneca lost all-region running back Jacory Benson to graduation — big shoes that Mackey was glad to fill.
“It felt good being able to fill those shoes, because Jacory was a huge impact on Seneca High School football,” Mackey said of his former teammate, who’s now playing at South Carolina State. “Still to this day, he’s a legend at the school.”
Mackey has made the most of his two years as the Bobcats’ go-to player on offense, but it’s starting to hit him as the regular season grows old that his days putting on the Bobcats’ uniform are numbered.
Friday’s game against Crescent at Tom Bass Field will be Seneca’s senior night, and Mackey will be one of those seniors honored at halftime. He’ll also receive his track and field state championship ring from the Bobcats’ win in May — something he’s been looking forward to.
“At the beginning of the season, it was just coming out here and playing football. But now it’s starting to hit me, since the season’s getting shorter, it’s coming to an end,” he said. “I don’t realize that I’m a senior now, so it’s kind of hitting hard.
“I’ve been looking forward to this night for a while. And walking out with my parents, that’s going to be pretty cool. Those are my main supporters right there, so giving them a shout out that night is going to be special.”
The Bobcats have won three straight region titles and are aiming for a fourth this season. Wins against Crescent Friday and Pendleton next week would ensure that result, and Mackey, for one, wants to finish this regular season strong after Seneca began the year 1-4.
Seneca has come this far, in part, because of Mackey’s consistent offensive production, and he’ll look to keep playing his role for as many games left as he has as a Bobcat.
“We’re planning on finishing strong so it can be a four-peat, because we’ve got the three-peat region (titles), and we want four,” he said. “With us seniors, we’ve all been talking about it — we want to do something special this year. This is our last year, we might as well give it all we have.”
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