ANDERSON — Entering the sectional championship game, Jerian Beard was well aware of Cathedral's Terry McLaurin. And the Anderson senior's focus was making sure McLaurin became aware of him as well.
After a week on intense preparation, Beard held Indiana's Mr. Football award winner to just one reception on seven targets.
Not bad for a running back who gained 2,205 yards in three varsity seasons and didn't play defensive back before August.
"I think he's really better on defense," Anderson coach Randy Albano said. "After watching him cover the kid from Cathedral, I'd think he could cover about anybody."
McLaurin is heading to Ohio State after catching 97 passes for 1,911 yards and 22 touchdowns during his high school career. He played just 2 1/2 quarters against the Indians, and the Irish — with a host of other weapons — cruised to a 56-13 victory.
But Beard held his own against the state's most explosive offensive star. That might have come as a surprise to some, but not to the Anderson standout.
"I wasn't scared, I know that," he said. "He had the big talk going into the offseason, and I respect him as a player. But I respect myself, too. I knew he was good, but I'm going to always bring my 'A' game."
Injuries to his knee and ankle limited Beard to just seven games this season. And, all the while, he was learning a new position.
He'd been an outside linebacker for the Indians as a sophomore but played exclusively on offense during his junior season. Graduation losses in the defensive backfield convinced Albano to move Beard to safety this summer. When injuries depleted the depth chart at cornerback, Beard moved again.
He made 38 tackles, four for a loss, and had one interception en route to all-state recognition from the Indiana Football Coaches Association. He's also been named The 2013 Herald Bulletin Football Defensive Athlete of the Year.