By Aram Tolegian, Staff Writer
Danny Sheehan’s role on the South Hills High School football team is a week-to-week thing. Need him to fill in at quarterback for injured starter Vince Hernandez? No problem. Need him to play wide receiver when Hernandez is healthy? No problem. Need him to hit the game-winning field goal as a place-kicker? Consider it done.
All this from a senior who strongly considered not playing this season because of a serious concussion suffered last year. For the Huskies’ sake, though, thank goodness football is in Sheehan’s blood.
“We’d be in a lot of trouble if we didn’t have him,” South Hills coach Steve Bogan said. “He has a Jim Thorpe-like quality; multi-talented and can kick, throw, play baseball, play football. It’s not surprising to us that he can step in and play any role we need filled.
“We’re grateful, but we’re not surprised.”
The original plan this season was for Sheehan to handle kicking duties and serve as a nice No. 2 receiver next to standout Jamie Canada. Due to Hernandez’s shoulder injury, that plan has been scrapped. Sheehan is the quarterback until Hernandez returns. His foot is also the one South Hills turns to when the Huskies are in a close game.
Thursday, Sheehan’s job was to drive the Huskies from their own 20-yard line into scoring position to break a 28-28 tie against powerful Los Osos in the final two minutes. Sheehan did just that, then hit the game-winning 27-yard field goal with 10.1 seconds left to send South Hills to a 31-28 victory.
“I’m just going to do whatever Coach Bogan asks me to do to help our team win,” Sheehan said. “If he needs me to play quarterback, I will play quarterback. My team needs me to step up, so I do it. It’s not like I also play defense.”
Sheehan’s game-winning kick Thursday took the sting off of a potential game-tying extra point he missed earlier in the season against Colony. In that game, the Huskies scored near the end of the game, decided to go for two, but a penalty pushed the Huskies back and they decided to kick the extra point. Unfortunately, though, Sheehan missed and South Hills lost, 30-29.
“That one hurt,” Sheehan said. “I felt like if we went into overtime, we had the momentum on our side and we could have pulled through. I felt like I really let the team down, but they helped me and picked me up and helped me push through it.”
So when Sheehan again got a chance to help his team with his leg, he wasn’t about to pass it up. South Hills had blown a 21-0 lead against Los Osos, but had a chance to eek out the victory with a field goal from Sheehan. But things started eerily similar to the Colony miss as he set up for the kick.
“It was kind of deja vu because we had a false start again,” Sheehan said. “I was thinking I was going to nail it because I didn’t want that taste in my mouth again. I had all the confidence in the world. I didn’t want to let my team down again.
“When I hit it, I was super excited. It was a good team win.”
Handling multiple roles on a football field is no surprise given his bloodlines. Sheehan is the son of former Covina coach Dick Sheehan, who is now the Superintendent of the Glendale Unified School District.
Before that, Dick Sheehan was the principal at Northview.
Danny Sheehan also has two uncles who played football at South Hills.
“I know the game,” Sheehan said. “I grew up around football with my dad being a coach.”
Despite the family lineage, baseball is Sheehan’s first love. He’s a second baseman and leadoff hitter for the Huskies’ strong baseball program. And because baseball is Sheehan’s biggest endeavor, his dad gave him the OK to give up football, especially after last year’s head injury.
“I was deciding this year whether or not to play football again,” Sheehan said. “I really figured that down the line I would miss it if I didn’t because I come from a football family.
“My dad was originally pushing me and pushing me to play, but when my senior year came he said I didn’t have to because baseball is where I’m focusing.”
Nobody even envisioned the Huskies needing Sheehan and his wealth of skills this much. But when Hernandez went down against West Covina, Sheehan was pressed into action for South Hills’ next game against Monrovia.
Sheehan stepped in and guided the Huskies to a 34-30 victory over Monrovia. When asked what he remembered most about the game, Sheehan didn’t need long to respond.
“That Ellis McCarthy is a stud,” Sheehan said, referring to Monrovia’s 6-foot-5, 300-pound five-star recruit. “I was gone before he had a chance to get to me. As soon as I saw him coming, I was running.”
With Hernandez still a question mark this week leading up to Friday’s showdown against Charter Oak, Sheehan is waiting and ready to resume his role as quarterback. He’s already started two games and won them both, so what’s another?
“They’re going to be the toughest team we’ve played so far,” Sheehan said of the Chargers. “We don’t know about Vince yet. If it’s me, the coaches aren’t expecting me to go in there and throw for 300 yards. They just want me to keep us moving along.
“It’s a new season starting on Friday. Anybody’s previous don’t matter because this is when it counts.”