Talk about an embarrassment of riches.
Christ School football is so blessed with quality assistant coaches that Heath Shuler – one of the area’s best high school quarterbacks in history, who starred at Tennessee and played in the NFL – is reduced to being the receivers coach on Mark Moroz’s staff.
And the Greenies are so deep at quarterback that when the expected starter under center – sophomore Navy Shuler, Heath’s son – was injured, the team simply plugged in Navy’s cousin West at the position and the offense hasn’t missed a beat.
After playing in the state NCISAA 3-A state title game the past two seasons and three times in five years, Christ School looks locked and loaded for another run at a championship.
With a 3-0 start punctuated by an impressive 34-7 romp over Robbinsville last week, the Greenies are on a 15-2 roll over the past two seasons.
The plan for this season was to have Navy take over for Drew Johnson, who threw for more than 5,000 yards and 60 touchdowns the last two seasons, including 2016’s 10-2 team.
But Navy developed an elbow injury this summer. So West, who prefers to play linebacker, stepped in and the offense has been very productive.
Buoyed by a strong running game (Sidney Gibbs has rushed for 626 yards and nine touchdowns), West had been a proficient passer, completing 27-of-42 passes for 347 yards and five scores.
Now Navy is healthy and is expected to be ready to play in the Greenies’ net game, at home vs. SouthLake Christian on Sept. 22.
West and others assume that Navy will step in at quarterback, but not so fast, says Moroz.
“I haven’t seen Navy throw for over a month, so I have to see how he is throwing in pads before I make a decision,” said Moroz,
“West is a phenomenal linebacker and has done a good job at quarterback. Navy is a really good quarterback and with him in there, we will be a different type of offense.
“Right now we are kind of a power running offense, but with Navy we will probably throw the ball 30 times a game.”
No matter who ends up getting the reps at QB, there will be no jealousy problems in the Shuler family.
“I’m just filling in for Navy, trying to help the team until he gets back,” said West, a junior and native of Robbinsville who enjoyed going back home last week and throwing for three TDs in the win over the Black Knights.
“But I love playing linebacker and trying to lead the defense. We’re cousins, teammates, best friends,” said West, who transferred in from Christian Academy of Knoxville (Tenn.).
“No competition at all,” said Navy, 16, a sophomore. “West stepped in and has done a great job at quarterback. I miss playing but it has been fun watching him play.”
As Navy’s father and West’s cousin, Heath will be working to make sure whoever plays quarterback is getting the ball to his receivers.
Heath Shuler threw for 7,098 yards and accounted for 103 TDs while leading the Maroon Devils to a trio of state 1-A championships from 1988-90. He starred at Tennessee, finishing second in the 1993 Heisman Trophy voting to Florida State’s Charlie Ward and was a first-round draft pick of the Washington Redskins in the ’94 draft.
After a four-year NFL career was cut short by a foot injury, Shuler went to Congress as WNC’s representative from 2007-13.
And now he is helping another WNC school get better on the football field.
“When West came here from Knoxville, he said I’ll play quarterback if I have to, but I want to play linebacker,” said Heath. “When Navy got hurt, West stepped up and has done a great job.”
While he loves being on the field with his son and nephew, Heath and Moroz agree that some separation between father and son is best.
So the quarterbacks coach is Tommy Langford, who worked with Navy the past three years at IMG Academy, the prestigious football prep program in Florida.
“Tommy does a great job, and it says a lot that he left IMG to come here to Christ School,” said Heath.
“Whenever I talk too much to West and Navy, they remind me I’m the receivers’ coach.”