Like all junior high football players, Malik Caper dreamed of starting for the high school varsity one day.
And now he’s accomplished that goal before ever setting foot in a classroom at L.D. Bell High School.
Caper, a freshman, is still a student at Bedford Junior High. In the HEB school district, ninth grade is still part of the junior high.
But there’s nothing junior high about his play on the football field, so Caper is starting on a varsity Class 6A football team.
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And he’s the Blue Raiders’ leading tackler with 47 heading into this weekend.
“It actually started before the spring game. We did junior high 7-on-7, and he was by far the best player on the field,” said Bell coach Mike Glaze.
“We knew we had a need in the secondary and we thought maybe this guy can do it.”
Then, after two weeks of varsity practice in the fall and a strong performance in the preseason scrimmage, Glaze said there was no doubt where Caper belonged.
“You don’t see many freshmen like him. He’s very, very talented,” Glaze said.
At 5-11, 175 pounds, Caper is not only strong at the strong safety position, he’s very fast. That does not bode well for opposing players going up against him.
But it was the mental challenge that concerned Glaze and Caper the most. Moving a player up to the varsity too fast can have a detrimental effect.
“It was scary. I didn’t know how fast-paced it was going to be,” Caper said of his first varsity game. “But my teammates just kept saying, ‘You can do it. You’re up here for a reason.’
“After the first possession, I got what was going on, and I began to feel comfortable.”
He said he still has to remind himself some days that he is indeed on the varsity as a freshman.
“The Friday night games are the most exciting. In junior high it’s what you dream of,” Caper said.
Though he’s only a freshman, Caper is already looking at playing in college – and he knows what school he’d like to play for.
“TCU,” he said. “I’ve been to a couple of games. It’s a great program.”
Glaze can see his young standout playing on Saturday afternoons for a big-time program in the future.
“He’s headed toward that path. He’s got speed, ball skills, the mentality,” Glaze said. “There’s no telling how good he can be.’
▪ L.D. Bell Blue Raiders (0-6, 0-2 in District 7-6A) vs. Trinity Trojans (6-0, 2-0 in District 7-6A)
7:30 p.m. Thursday, Pennington Field
The Blue Raiders, though winless, are just a few plays from being 3-3. They’ve lost two games in overtime, including last Friday’s 34-27 loss to Richland. There will likely be a lot of running in this game, as Bell averages 203 rushing and 83 passing and Trinity averages 358 rushing and 54 passing. The Trojans feature three running backs with over 350 yards (Ja’Ron Wilson, 784, 6 TD; Tyler Natee, 512, 5 TD; De Jaun Garrett, 393, 7 TD). Trinity has controlled this series in recent years.