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Don’t go, Shane

Wednesday, Jul. 13 | By Staff
Shane Blanchard
Shane Blanchard loves a challenge.

A Liberty High football and soccer star and Eagle Scout, Blanchard also is passionate about the great outdoors. Rock climbing, hiking, bicycling and swimming among other endeavors present a challenge to him every time he goes on an adventure.

Climb higher, run harder, go faster and harder: there is always something more.

“When you finished and succeed, it’s a great feeling,” Blanchard said. “It’s always better when you have a challenge.”

Climbing to the top is more than a catchphrase, it sums up Blanchard’s senior year. Blanchard transitioned from linebacker to running back, picked up soccer again after a two-year break and made all-Evergreen District second team in both sports. He also faced personal tragedy during soccer season, losing his older brother and backyard football buddy Chris in a car accident.

Now Shane has reached another summit. He’s 2011 Fauquier Times-Democrat Liberty Boys Athlete of the Year.

“I didn’t really tell anyone at first,” Shane said of his Times-Democrat award.

He eventually told his girlfriend over dinner, and his boss at Stafford-based Tovan Construction. But Blanchard held back the news to two important people that will certainly enjoy hearing it: his parents. “I can’t wait for them to see the paper,” said Blanchard. Their neighbors in Bealeton get the paper and Blanchard hopes it comes as a nice surprise.

“Dad will think it’s cool and laugh that I didn’t tell him. Mom will wig out. I want them to pick the paper up and say ‘Whoa, what’s this?’” Blanchard said.

At a school with healthy amount of great athletes, Blanchard was a standout. He finished as Liberty’s second-leading rusher with 583 yards on 114 carries, including 5 touchdowns. It was his first year at the position after being a three-year starter at outside linebacker.

Coach Tommy Buzzo said he was pleased with Blanchard’s answer when he approached him about a switch to offense.

“You ask Shane to do something, he says ‘Yes sir, coach,’” Buzzo said. “He’s steady and reliable and we could move him around a lot.”

“All I knew since freshman year was ‘Find the ball, hit the person,’” Blanchard said about his transition.

Standing about 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, Blanchard displayed a rugged style with good speed. Blanchard was not a flashy runner, but knew how to find a hole and get positive yards.

Blanchard also showed Buzzo he could kick off during camp. Blanchard landed one in the end zone after joking around. Buzzo asked him to do it again and he did it again five times. Blanchard ended up being used for kickoffs, and may try to do it at Ferrum College, where he will play this fall.

Blanchard emerged as a reliable runner who often got in the end zone. He scored one defensive touchdown as a junior in a 70-7 win over Kettle Run, but saved his biggest TD for the regional quarterfinals against Fauquier. The week before, however, he was in the spotlight in Liberty’s 27-21 win over Fauquer in three overtimes in the Bird Bowl.

“Nerve-wracking,” said Blanchard. “It was a very nail-biting game. I was anxious.”

That now-historic dogfight for the Evergreen District title is still a little hard for Blanchard to talk about because he was poised to score the game-winning touchdown with 46 seconds left but fumbled at the 2-yard line. Thankfully, Liberty pulled it out.

The next week Blanchard more than made up for his gaffe. On Liberty’s first play from scrimmage, Blanchard got the ball and saw daylight, scoring a 59-yard TD. “After running about 15 yards, there was nothing but green turf in front of me,” Blanchard said. “I started thinking, ‘Run as fast as you can until you hear the cannon.’”

Blanchard finished with five carries for 74 yards as Liberty rolled to a 49-27 win.

Blanchard and the Eagles made regionals all four years, including the state semifinals during his sophomore year. In his junior and senior years, the Eagles lost to the eventual state champion both times.

“He liked doing whatever he could to help the team win,” Buzzo said. “Shane’s a kid with character, he led by example and this year he stepped up and led vocally. He’s an outstanding young man.”

Shane, with older brothers Chris and Jon, practiced football moments in the backyard since he could walk. Shane was the self-described “runt” of the three. “Them picking on me growing up toughened me up,” Shane said. “I always thought that if I could take a beating from my brothers then I could take a beating from anybody.”

Chris, a 2005 Liberty graduate, wore number 63 for the football team and often picked Shane in the neighborhood football games.

By Shane’s senior year, Chris was married, bought a house in Manassas and started a new job at AT&T working in sales. Things changed but Chris was still around.

“He was my best friend,” Shane said. “He was my biggest influence in playing sports, period. Every sport he played I played, and wanted to do better in. And that was his goal for me.”

At about 11:33 p.m. on April 17, the Blanchards heard a knock on the door as everyone was getting ready for bed. Two police officers were there.

“They said there had been an accident and Christopher didn’t make it,” Shane recalled.

Blanchard said he walked around the neighborhood a couple of times to process the tragic news. Soon family friends came over.

Then came the time to tell Jon the news. His parents called Jon in Louisiana, then ten minutes later Shane and Jon talked on the phone. Jon traveled up to Virginia with their grandparents.

The accident happened the first weekend of LHS spring break, so Blanchard did not miss school, although he missed one soccer game and some practices. Then he remembered what Chris would say about him missing out. “He would have told me to get off the couch and go play, your team needs you,” said Blanchard.

The soccer field was a different challenge for Blanchard, who played soccer in eighth grade at Taylor Middle School and the LHS junior varsity as a freshman. He joined varsity his senior year.

“I was trying to show people I could play,” Blanchard said.

Blessed with strength, quickness and mental toughness, Blanchard converted his football skills to the other football. “People don’t think you can hit in soccer, but you can in the right way,” Blanchard said. “Slide tackling was one of my favorite things to do. I played physical soccer.”

Used to success in football, Blanchard soccer Eagles did not win a game this past spring.

“Liberty’s still building a program,” Blanchard said. “The problem was meshing together, we didn’t gel, we didn’t form a team.”

As a defender Blanchard never scored a goal his whole soccer career. “I had a shot (vs. Warren County) that was an inch wide to the left and was upset about that one. But it still feels good, being a defender and trying to score goals,” he said.

Even with his decorated athletic career, Blanchard still highlights the Eagle Scout honor he received his sophomore year. Blanchard for a landscaping project. “It’ll always stick with me,” Blanchard said. “The benefits from being an Eagle Scout last for life.”

Blanchard has a passion for the outdoors. Shane and Chris were hunting buddies and Shane has hiked parts of the Appalachian Trail. He wants to hike the whole thing some day.

Blanchard is considering a minor in business to go along with his recreational leadership major at Ferrum College. That way he can open up his own rock climbing course.
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