Like many young men, Minooka senior Justin Shepard's thoughts and actions turned to the game of football during the fall. While Shepard is better known for his bowling skills, he couldn't help but getting swept up in a neighborhood football game a couple of months ago.
Little did he realize then that by doing so he was putting the winter bowling season in jeopardy. Shepard fell and hit his head on pavement that day and he had to spend a couple of days in the hospital. He then missed the first month of the boys bowling team before returning recently to the Indians team.
"It's huge to have him back because it sets our lineup up," Minooka coach Derrick Rapsky said.
The Indians are 8-1 this year and are looking like serious state contenders. After Wednesday's home win over Lincoln-Way Central, Shepard agreed to engage the MDH in this week's question and answer session.
Q. This year's Minooka team is starting to really turn some heads. Let's start there and work back to it at the end. What is your assessment of the team to this point?
A. We have the talent to go a long way this year. If everybody continues to do as good as we are doing now, I can see us trying to win a state title.
Q. How long have you been involved with the sport of bowling?
A. I started when I was 7 years old. I was bowling in my first league by the time I was 8, and ever since then, it has been my favorite sport I have ever played in.
Q. What was your motivation for getting involved with the sport?
A. I remember when I was in seventh grade bowling at Channahon Lanes and watching the high school bowlers bowl off to the side. I thought it would be cool to be like them when I was in high school.
Q. Have you played other sports over the years besides bowling?
A. I played basketball in junior high, but since bowling and basketball were winter sports in high school, I chose the one I enjoyed more.
Q. What is it about bowling that you like so much?
A. I love the competitive edge in the sport. This sport comes natural to me and I just love the environment your under while you are bowling.
Q. Do you know off the top of your head what your highest game ever has been? If so, can you recall the details of the day?
A. My highest game ever is a 299. That day I was at Town and Country Lanes bowling by myself. And during the last game, I had the front 11 (12 being a perfect game), so I took a deep breath and shot it, and I got a ringing 10 pin. I was so close to it, I was really frustrated, but my perfect game will come eventually.
Q. What is your average this year, and are you happy with where it is at?
A. My average is around a 207 this year. I am happy with it because I had an almost fatal injury and though I wouldn't be able to bowl this season, so it is nice to be back in the swing of things.
Q. Lets get back to the Minooka team. Can you sum up for me how frustrating it must have been last year to end the season the way you guys did?
A. I though we could have gone a long way if we would have went to state last year. I also kept in mind that I had one more year to improve, though, and I see that we have been improving this year.
Q. Coach Rapsky said that he is hoping you guys will use that as motivation this year to take the next step. Do you see that?
A. Yeah we are hungry to go to state this year as a team. As a senior, I have to lead this team into sectionals and hopefully state. We definitely have the talent to do it and I think we won't be disappointed after this year.
Q. What else motivates the team so far?
A. We just want to go to state. I went to state my freshman year and it was the best experience ever. We also have a chance to go really far this year and we want to win.
Q. You guys just set a school record for pins in a dual at 3,394. What was it like bowling with the team that day?
A. We didn't really think about it. We just go in there and bowl and we just think about that day. I honestly had no idea we had set a record. Hopefully we beat that again this year.
Q. Finally, what goals have you guys set, and what do you think it will take for the team to get there?
A. Our goal is to make it to state this year as a team. We need to focus and take it one game at a time in sectionals. We have a chance to go far this year and I believe this is the year.