South Carolina Independent School Association
Story by Cindy Reid Photos by Paul Nurnberg
Meet De’Shaun Epps. This may be the first time you’ve heard his name, but it’s guaranteed not to be the last. De’Shaun was recently named SCISA 8-Man Division I Player of Year for his outstanding first season with the Beaufort Academy Eagles football team. (SCISA is the South Carolina Independent School Association). He earned this honor with his impressive rushing and scoring offensive play. De’Shaun rushed for 1,979 yards and 20 touchdowns and, he also caught 13 passes for 363 yards and five scores. In his extraordinary first season with the BA Eagles, De’Shaun ran 2431 all purpose yards, with a remarkable average of 243 yards a game.
De’Shaun’s performance on the field helped bring BA to its second five win season in school history and its very first trip to the SCISA 8 Man semi-finals. Regarding his “Player of the Year” honor, De’Shaun says, “It felt good, because I never really had a season like that before.” He says, “My team mates are good and we have the motivation to work together.”
BA football Coach Scott Richards says, “I nominated De’Shaun for both Offensive Player of the Year and all round Player of the Year. The coaches in our region are the ones who vote, so in order to be named Player of the Year, the player has to have made an impression on the other coaches as well. Any coach who saw film of De’Shaun on the field had to design a game plan around his playing. De’Shaun deserved the nomination and he was worthy of this honor. He is an impressive player and an impressive young man.”
Coach Neil McCarty, Athletic Director of Beaufort Academy, says “De’Shaun really proved himself with the adjustment to the eight man team, the adjustment to a new school and to all new classmates. He has a natural talent, a natural instinct for the game. Our team needed someone like De’Shaun, someone who was able to bring extra motivation to the team.”
In addition to De’Shaun, four other Beaufort Academy Eagles players were named to the all-region team. De’Shaun was joined on the all-region team by Jaxon Spratling, Will Warren, Edward McCormick and Daniel Richards. This has truly been a stellar season for the Eagles.
Coach Richards says, “No question that the first day of practice, we were on the field in shorts, no helmets, and De’Shaun came out and made a big impact. On every play the ball stuck to his hands. He knows the game, he understands the game. He is just a natural.”
The game that brought the eagles to the playoffs was against Cathedral Academy. For the big game De’Shaun ran 389 yards, the equivalent of almost four trips down the 100 yard field, and scored five touchdowns, bringing the Eagles to a 76-50 win. “This win brought the Eagles into the playoffs” said Coach McCarty,” This was the first year BA has been able to host a layoff game so it was pretty exciting”.
Although De’Shaun’s mother Ramie Epps parents are from Beaufort, she and her family lived in Florida where De’Shaun was raised. They moved to Beaufort a year ago, and De’Shaun briefly attended Beaufort High School before transferring to the smaller Beaufort Academy. De’Shaun made the change because Ms. Epps says, “I wanted him to be more focused, and I thought he would do well in a smaller environment.” That certainly appears to be the case, as De’Shaun has excelled on the field and is thriving in the classroom, where history is his favorite subject.
De’Shaun has no greater fan than his mother, who attended each and every game, even the away ones. For a mother working two jobs, one of which is at night, this is no easy feat. Ms. Epps said “I made sure I always had the time off for De’Shaun’s games, even the away games. I never missed one and some were pretty far away.” Next season she will be in the stands cheering her son and his team on every game as well.
Although still a sophomore, De’Shaun has naturally thought about where he would like to attend college and play football. He says,” I want to go to Ohio State. I have been following their football program for years and my favorite player, Ezekiel Elliot, went to Ohio State.” As for playing goes he says, “I want to develop and have the opportunity to play quarterback, something I could see myself doing. But I will work at any position I am in, and I will work hard.”
Ms. Epps says, “De’Shaun is always talking football and he has always talked about Ohio State. And when he wasn’t talking about football, practicing or playing a game, you could always find him working out or playing at the YMCA.”
De’Shaun says he wants to study engineering and business management at college. He says, “My Grandmother showed me what engineers do, and I like that, I like creating things.”
Coach Richards says, “De’Shaun has a great opportunity here at Beaufort Academy, everyone wants him to do well and he is taking responsibility and working hard. As long as he continues to buckle down, hit the weight room and keep his grades up, he will be fine.”
Coach Richards says, “We are losing five senior players, for the second year in a row, so we have to replace those five with five new guys that want to play. We are bringing back our quarterback and, although we need to fill the offensive line I think we will be in really good shape. We are going to have a team that wants to play and I look forward to a great season.” Coach McCarty adds, “Their success has motivated the team; we are going to have a great fall.”
De’Shaun says, “My team mates are hard working and they really want to be good, and we will be even better than last season!”