On the eighth of its 10-play script used to begin last Friday’s game, Higley’s season and postseason goals were crippled.
Eric Kump, the two-year starting quarterback having a terrific season (1,157 yards, 17 touchdowns, two interceptions), was hit low and suffered a torn ACL. His season is almost assuredly over.
The Knights already trailed 21-0 to Williams Field by the time they ran that eighth play on offense, so other Higley mistakes already put them in trouble against a rival and really good team.
Without their leader and offensive cornerstone, the Knights’ subsequent snap after Kump’s injury was a fumble. Later came a shanked punt and the landslide was under way.
“The wind was definitely taken out of us,” Knights coach Eddy Zubey said.
Obvious though it is, such has been life when a school’s heart of its offense, and many times the soul of a team, is lost temporarily or permanently; Now more than ever in this age of offensive and defensive schemes which can induce migraines.
It’s one player from a roster of 30, 40, 50, 60 or more, but it’s like losing the starting point guard, even though football rosters are eight or nine-times larger. Most larger-sized schools can often work around or adapt to losing a good linebacker, lineman, tight end or even a running back.
Quarterback is a different deal.
“Every play starts with him,” Brophy coach Scooter Molander said. “That in and of itself is important.”
Chandler was toe-to-toe with Hamilton and the Wolves started to move the ball through the air in the fourth quarter when Darell Garretson was crunched by Daniel Duran and suffered a concussion. His night was over.
Jackson Caldwell came into the game, but despite a couple impressive QB runs on 3rd-and-17, the Wolves didn’t throw the ball with success again. Another turnover and late penalty doomed the Wolves.
After Mesquite QB Steven Bevan suffered a concussion in a win against Red Mountain, the Wildcats were shut out by Chandler, and the next two weeks were a mighty struggle offensively for the Wildcats, right down to things such as a change of cadence during the snap count that led to penalties.
“There’s more and more put on the quarterback than in the past,” said Molander, a former quarterback. “Not just the physical aspect but getting your offense out of a bad play, or getting into a better play. Understanding the progressions to read and look for, all the nuances and subtleties to what is almost never a boring, basic offense.
“We tell them if you don’t want to lead you need to find another position. Other people are looking for you to lead simply because you’re the quarterback.”
After reaching the 5A Division I state semifinals last year, Mountain Pointe lost would-be-senior quarterback Kyle Faunce when his family moved back to Indiana. The Pride have moved running back Dillan Johnson to quarterback and used Caleb Buck as a more traditional, drop-back passer.
The Pride are currently 2-4. A brutal schedule and injuries are part of the deal, but the offense hasn’t been anything like the Pride envisioned when their semifinals run ended last winter.
Last season Brophy went through three quarterbacks after Chase Knox went to California during the summer and sophomore starter Tyler Bruggman suffered a broken ankle on a freak play in practice in early October.
Wide receiver Fred Gammage became the de facto quarterback along with Greg Wirth coming up from JV, but the Broncos weren’t playing very well at the time, and never scored 20 points again after Bruggman’s injury and lost to Mountain Pointe in the quarterfinals.
With Bruggman (among others) back and healthy, the Broncos are 6-0 and looking every bit the championship contender.
So was Desert Ridge, its 2010 a preciously rare instance when wholesale changes worked. The Jaguars went wild midway through last season when quarterback Parker Rasmussen was hurt and Jordan Becerra became quarterback of a run-rampant offense that blew through the playoffs and into the 5A-I championship game.
With its core kids back and sky-high expectations, the Jaguars struggled at times in September, so they made the same move again two weeks ago and put Rasmussen at wide receiver and Becerra under center to run the spread option.
“It depends who your backup is,” said Hamilton coach Steve Belles, whose Huskies beat Desert Ridge in the championship game. “Do the kids believe in them? That’s the bottom line. If they do, you’ve got a fighting chance.”
Mesquite’s playbook shrunk when Bevan sat out. Higley’s playbook will probably shrink to help Jacob Gonzales manage the offense and Chandler’s might have to if Garretson isn’t cleared to play against Dobson this week.
So often, too, does the offense. So does the scoring. So does the team’s margin of error, offense and defense, so does players’ psyche.
In many cases, so does the season.
“People think if you’re a running team and lose a QB it’s no big deal,” Mesquite coach Matt Gracey said. “Timing is everything in football and it’s huge whether you throw the ball or not. There’s a lot of stuff that screws you up.”