Cam Brasher drove his girlfriend Whitney Tatum to a Fort Smith veterinary clinic the other afternoon.
All in the name of love.
It’s one of the few normal things that seem to make sense these days.
As the calendar turns the page, erasing the previous day with another of uncertainty, Cam Brasher’s senior year at Booneville High School is becoming a thing of the past.
This week, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced that public schools will remain closed through the middle of April. Although this week officially marks the start of spring break, it’s anyone’s guess as to when — and if — Brasher and his classmates will return to finish the 2019-20 academic year.
“It’s your senior year — you’re counting down the days,” Brasher said. “You’re exhausted after 13 years of elementary school, junior high and now high school. It’s (long break) sort of nice, but bad in a way, too.
“I’m missing so much from the senior year experience that everyone has experienced in the past.”
On a normal day, Brasher would drive himself to school for two classes, then home for college classes.
Cancelling school isn’t the only thing Brasher’s missing out on, either. The school’s baseball team was enjoying an unbelievable start when the Arkansas Activities Association put the brakes on everything because of the COVID-19 threat.
Booneville outscored its first three opponents, 37-0.
“It’s really frustrating,” Brasher said. “The first part of the year, we got through football season, but it doesn’t look like we’re gong to have baseball. They say we’re going to make up the games, but I don’t know what’s going to happen. We can’t even practice if we’re not in a school. It’s very de-motivating. We’re stuck at home and essentially doing nothing.”
Ironically, that’s just half of Brasher’s story. Following the end of the football season, he was content to finish school without playing his final season of baseball.
Before the shutdown, the kid who had batted .442 while striking out just nine times in 94 at-bats in the spring of 2019, played just one game and had one hit (1-for-2).
“I was kind of burned out,” he said. “I was not enjoying the atmosphere. But after we got a new head coach, Aaron Kimes, it kind of restarted the fire. He (Kimes) was my defensive coordinator and I really liked him. I felt bad for quitting him. Getting the thrill back and not being demotivated.”
A change of heart, however, didn’t mean Kimes was going to treat Brasher any differently.
“I ran 240 foul poles to get back on the team,” Brasher said. “It’s kind of rough that I might get to only play one game my senior year.”
Fifteen months ago, Brasher made one of the stellar plays in the long history of Booneville Bearcats’ football when he saved the team’s 34-31 semifinals win over Prescott with a clinching interception. Brasher can’t make sense of the coronavirus threat, but the former Bearcats’ star can break down the play, the interception, with the precision of a doctor performing open heart surgery.
Brasher and the Bearcats capped the 2018 season by bludgeoning Osceola the following week, 35-0, for the school’s third state football championship since 2000. Like Custer, the Seminoles never stood a chance that cold afternoon at War Memorial Stadium.
Just a junior, Brasher was pumped to do it again last fall.
This time, however, he and his teammates whiffed. (Well, when you don’t make it past the third round in Booneville it’s considered a whiff).
“It was frustrating,” Brasher said. “We were so hyped up. Everyone was kind of on the same page. We just weren’t mentally ready to play. We were in shape, but we just didn’t perform the way we should have.”
Brasher did more than his part in 2019. He found himself scoring touchdowns again for the first time since junior high.
“I didn’t really run the ball my junior year but a couple of times,” Brasher said. “I had run the ball my whole life, from second grade to high school. I think I ran for over a thousand yards.”
Brasher ran for 1,025 yards and 17 touchdowns last season, a giant spike from the 95 yards he ran for in ‘18 — though, because of an in-game injury, Brasher rushed for 78 yards on six carries in the team’s championship win Osceola.
As for the game-saving pick against Prescott, Brasher had done his homework.
“The play that comes to mind is the interception,” he said. “I think that got us ready for the state game.”
Despite its potent offense, the 2018 Bearcats were just as sound defensively. But on this night, as they traded jabs with Prescott, coach Scott Hyatt’s crew was struggling.
Brasher remembers a couple of adjustments and the time spent practicing for this very moment.
“We didn’t have a defensive end the first part of the drive,” Brasher explained. “We called a timeout and got our defensive end back in, and that started to help.”
‘Don’t drop it’
Prescott quarterback Ryan Johnson locked in on his primary target.
“We had been practicing for Prescott for about two weeks, even before we were going to play them,” he said. “We knew every play they were going to run. I saw the quarterback role out. They ran a crossing route. Me and the other linebacker (Carson Ray) switched, and I kind of read his eyes and stepped in front of him (receiver Cameron Cox). I was like, ‘Please don’t drop it.’
“If the pass was incomplete, they could have kicked a field goal and forced overtime.”
Before that game, Brasher had touched the ball just twice that season offensively — a random 17-yard run in a playoff win over Walnut Ridge and a 10-yard TD reception during the team’s early October win over Mansfield earlier that fall.
The interception was his second and final pick of the season.