As Chaparral senior Kurt Shughart walked a tight-rope along the sideline on his way to his first rushing touchdown of the night, the P.A. announcer gave an emphatic “cornerback/running back Kurt Shughart takes it in for the Chaparral touchdown.” It was a friendly, but not completely accurate, reminder of what Shughart does for the Firebirds.
He is the team’s leading rusher, where he had three touchdowns on the ground on the way to a 42-27 win over Liberty Thursday night. Defensively, Chaparral head football coach Conrad Hamilton says Shughart can play up to four different positions, whether it is up in the box as a linebacker, or defending the deep pass as a safety and everywhere in between. Shughart found the end zone after intercepting Liberty to bring his touchdown total to four on the night. On special teams, the senior finds himself as one of the return men as well.
“He’s a powerful kid; he’s around 200 pounds and probably pound-for-pound our strongest player. Then he has a heart of a lion so when you’re strong, you’re skilled, and you have the right kind of mentality, he’s going to work hard for us,” Hamilton said.
Shughart delivers hits on both sides of the ball, and that can be taxing. Most games, you will find the New Mexico State commit’s jersey tattered and nearly torn from would-be tacklers. It’s the mental preparation that is equally important as the physical prep for Shughart to endure the barrage of hits throughout a game.
“It’s gotten easier a little each week,” Shughart said. “First game, I was a little bit gassed, but going into each week knowing I’m going to be gassed, you’re not going to have a lot of energy left so just knowing you’re going to go in and get your body pounded, (you) just lay your heart out.”
Probably the only way to get Shughart off the field would be to drag him off, and even that is not a guarantee. He is a commit to New Mexico State and cited the opportunity to get on the field early as one of the main reasons why he committed to the Aggies. His affinity for the football field is something that can’t necessarily be described over a P.A. system as he is scoring a touchdown or intercepting an opponent, but his teammates know that’s just one more thing Shughart does for the Firebirds.
“Kurt brings it all. He’s probably the best two-way player in the state,” Chaparral tight end Christian Skeptaris said. “He brings it on defense, he brings the intensity, we all rally around him and we follow him. He’s a great leader.”
Much was made about the Firebirds making the jump to Division I this season, but after wins over Perry, Desert Edge, Horizon, and Helix High School, who many considered to be one of the top programs in San Diego, as well as holding a stout Chandler offense to just 15 points, the Firebirds are making the case as a Division I contender.
“We knew we were going to compete at any level we were at. We worked crazy hard this summer. We deserve everything we have and I’m excited to play more with these guys,” Shughart said.
And Hamilton believes part of that credit goes to their ballhawk defensive back and premiere running back.
“We wouldn’t be here right now at 6-2 without him. That’s for sure.”