Prep Football: The Week 2 Picks
Quarterback has been pro football’s glamour position since 1938 when Sid Luckman, leather-helmeted hero of the Chicago Bears, appeared on the cover of Life magazine.
Luckman played in a time when football was ruthless and toothless, but he rose above the terrible tussles in the trenches as the master of the T-formation and the crowd-pleasing forward pass.
Since Luckman’s day, quarterbacks have received too much credit — or too much blame — for their team’s successes and failures, but there’s never been any doubt it’s the most critical position.
The quarterback can’t win the game alone, but he can certainly lose it very quickly with bad decisions or bad throws.
“Quarterback controversy” — when a team has two somewhat equal candidates for the leading-man job — became part of the sportswriting vocabulary in 1949 when the Los Angeles Rams, who already had 1945 MVP Bob Waterfield, decided to draft a young whiz named Norm Van Brocklin.
QB controversies provided August headlines over the years — from Roger Staubach vs. Craig Morton in Dallas in the 1970s to Steve Young vs. Joe Montana in San Francisco in the 1990s.
High school coaches don’t have quarterback controversies. They leave that stuff to the pros and the big-time colleges. Instead, prep coaches have “quarterback competitions.”
The most scrutinized QB competition locally in 2014 took place at A.L. Brown, where dual-threat QB Damon Johnson and passing QB Josh Endicott battled for the starting assignment through the scrimmages. Johnson was declared the winner by unanimous decision, and the Wonders moved forward.
There were no QB competitions in Rowan County in 2014. West Rowan junior Kacey Otto had been a fullback, but he put up a 334-yard passing game against Carson that broke the school record.
At Carson, Andy Lear was a running back disguised as a quarterback, but Carson already had Brandon Sloop and Darren Isom to carry the mail, so Lear took the snaps.
At East, North, South and Salisbury, four senior QBs were firmly entrenched, and East’s Samuel Wyrick, North’s Alexis Archie, Salisbury’s Riley Myers and South Rowan’s Aaron Kennerly formed one of the great QB classes in county history. That quartet combined for 154 career touchdown passes and 15,167 passing yards.
The 2015 season opened with quarterback uncertainty rampant in the county. Otto, who spent the summer playing center field for Rowan County’s American Legion baseball team, was the only returning starter at the position.
North Rowan coach Ben Hampton and Salisbury coach Ryan Crowder announced no decisions during the preseason. Their quarterback competition, they said, was too close to call.
Week 1 offered some QB clarity.
East’s Tate Houpe was impressive in his first start. He can throw, and assuming his shoulder is OK, he’s in charge of an offense that could make him the county’s leading passer.
Otto is still the guy at West and played well against Mooresville, although sophomore Bryant Young also threw a touchdown pass and showed he’ll have a role right away.
At South, Heath Barringer, is finally the guy. He has some similarities with Blake Houston, South’s quarterback in 2009, the last time the Raiders were good. If Barringer can stay in one piece — he was sacked a scary 12 times on opening night — he’ll have games where he throws for 100 and runs for 100.
At Salisbury, Marcus Corry started, although Harrison Smith played some. The Hornets passed for a meager 14 yards, but that didn’t mean much. They didn’t have to throw with Willie Clark and Antwond Glenn chewing up yards on the ground.
North had the most interesting QB developments opening night because both candidates had moments of stardom. Sophomore Josh Ellis started, took a big hit, hurt his wrist and left the game. But then he returned to direct a pressure-packed, game-winning drive on the road against a pretty good defense. His stats weren’t awesome, but Ellis looks like a field general and a winner.
Corbin Smith, a junior, played most of the game. He can throw if he’s got time, and its unlikely he’ll settle into a standard backup role. North probably will play both QBs, depending on matchups and situations.
It’s worked before. Platooning Waterfield and Van Brocklin, the Rams won the 1951 NFL championship.
Idle in Week 1, Carson enters the mix tonight, with Lear at running back and with sophomore Owen White directing coach Joe Pinyan’s offense. White is a mega-prospect in baseball, throws fastballs 91 mph and was one of the county’s best pitchers, hitters and fielders as a freshman. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll also be a great football player, but don’t bet against him.
The picks were 4-0 last week, although that was luck, not brilliance. North-East and West-Mooresville easily could’ve gone the other way.
North 24, Carson 21: A lot of people believe Carson will win, and the Cougars might. Carson has had extra time to prepare for North, but that’s offset by the Cavaliers not only having a game under their belts, but having a tough, physical game under their belts. North is at home and has won seven straight county games. I’ll stick with them until that mini-streak ends.
East 27, Salisbury 14: Picking an 0-1 team over a 1-0 club doesn’t sound sensible, but the Mustangs are at home and they’ve won three straight against the Hornets.
West 35, Davie 24: This matchup is almost always a fight to the wire, but based on Week 1 results, the Falcons should have their way.
A.L. Brown 49, South 14: The Raiders pull off a shocker in this series just often enough to keep things interesting, but the Wonders are loaded this year.