Shanley’s success in 2016 rests heavily on the talents of running back/linebacker Matt Burd.
After rushing for over 1,900 yards in 2015, Burd looks forward to accumulating more yardage in 2016, adding to his already-impressive total. With each carry and defensive snap he plays this season, one theme will be constant. The Shanley senior will not shy away from contact.
“I love the hitting. I’m not going to lie, it’s my favorite part,” says Burd. “There aren’t a lot of things you can do in life where you can strap on some pads, go man versus man, get back up, and try to do it again.”
Not only does Burd take that hard-nosed approach on defense, he brings it to the offensive side as well.
“I pride myself on being a power runner, pounding the ball again and again and again until you just wear down the defense,” says Burd.
After leading the Deacons to the state title game in 2014 as a quarterback, Burd’s affinity for power running was a revelation for the Deacons in 2015. One constant between the two campaigns? State title game losses, to Bismarck St. Mary’s in 2014 and Beulah in 2015. Coach Rod Oksendahl will lean on Burd to help get the Deacons over the top in 2016.
“Matt is a very hard-working kid that has made himself into a great player with his work ethic,” says Oksendahl.
As a returning all-conference and all-state performer, Burd hopes to provide the kind of leadership that makes his toughness rub off on his teammates. Burd is especially hoping for a sense of grit to develop on the offensive line, a completely rebuilt unit that featured exclusively seniors in 2015.
“My line helped me succeed last year. I’d take that line over any line in the state,” says Burd. “For me and the other captains, it’s about making everybody come together as a team. The new line has been doing their lifting, putting in their work, we’ll be fine. They’ve come through. It’s a matter of everyone knowing their roles and doing everything they possibly can within their role.”
The Deacons take flight against rival Bismarck St. Mary’s to start the season.
“The last few years they’ve gotten us. We’ve started off the season with them three years in a row now,” says Burd. “When I’m lifting, I’m picturing myself running against St. Mary’s. Constantly reminding myself, ‘You’ve got to get better.’”
With a wealth of experience and a ferocious drive to bring a championship home to roost, it’s a good year for Shanley to ride the wings of their Burd.
We lost our entire offensive line, as well as our first backup. That is our main concern. We have to find replacements for those guys in order to be able to contend in our region. Defensively, we have seven starters back so that should be our strength at the start of the season.