Offensive options still on table for some teams
Wed. August 21, 2013 at 2:05 p.m. | By StarNews Sports Department
Annual BB&T Football Jamboree at Legion Stadium Friday Aug. 16, 2013. (Photo by Paul Stephen)
By Eric Detweiler
When Hoggard High School football practice ended Tuesday evening, junior Austin Schoenleber hurried through the rain from the field house to the school for new student orientation, satisfied with his latest audition.
Upon joining the Vikings late last month, Schoenleber knew he'd only have so many chances to stake his claim to the starting quarterback job. As the Topsail transfer worked feverishly to learn the offensive terminology and memorize the playbook, the competition with sophomore Xavier Johnson had already begun.
"I had to embrace the competition," said Schoenleber, who started 10 games for the Pirates last fall and moved from Pender County this summer. "It was kind of tough, but I had to go to battle with someone else. I had to show out. I think that's brought out the best in me, knowing it wouldn't be handed to me."
As the regular season kicks off Friday night, the spotlight will naturally fall on the quarterback position, for better or worse. Teams such as Laney (Tariq Lane), New Hanover (Ward Coleman) and Ashley (Chris Kane) have trusted returning starters under center, while others have more uncertainty.
Hoggard coach Scott Braswell said it would be "silly" to leave a capable quarterback on the bench. He's allowed Schoenleber and Johnson, the team's junior varsity starter last fall until he broke his collar bone, to split reps evenly through three weeks of preseason.
Though Braswell declined to name a starter for Friday's season opener at South Columbus, he's preparing to use both signal callers and allow the race to stretch on for the foreseeable future.
"They're doing a great job competing with each other and working with each other," Braswell said. "I think they're both making each other better, and that's kind of a neat thing to see."
Braswell has rotated quarterbacks in the past, most recently in 2010 with Jovan Genwright and Christian Poveromo.
Genwright provided a running threat, while Poveromo was a more conventional passer, so Hoggard essentially ran two offenses. This time, the Vikings will have roughly the same playbook regardless of who is under center.
Schoenleber took the opening series at last week's BB&T Jamboree against Whiteville. A year ago, the 6-foot-1 quarterback had a firm grasp on the starting job at Topsail after playing a few varsity games as a freshman and went on to pass for 1,608 yards and 14 touchdowns. He cited "a few personal, family reasons" for his recent move.
Johnson spent last season shadowing Poveromo after his injury. He had the inside track through the spring and summer workouts but said Schoenleber's arrival hasn't changed much in his mindset.
The players have become fast friends, especially important with the newcomer depending on Johnson for tips early on as he learned the offense. They've learned to make the best of taking turns and are prepared to continue that way until Braswell declares a winner.
"You've just got to make the most with your reps," Johnson said. "If you mess up one rep, you can't do it again. You've got to do your best every time."
More decisions …
North Brunswick coach Garry Bishop said he may use three quarterbacks early this season. Senior Emel Tilman was the backup last season and fits the team's offensive system well with his running ability, but he's been slowed by a back strain and will miss Friday's game at Whiteville.
Senior Randy Clark and junior Shelton Perkins split snaps at the Pender County Jamboree. Clark started at tight end last season before a position switch this summer, and Perkins, an East Carolina baseball commit, has the best arm of the bunch.
"Normally, you've got one, and you try to work a backup that's decent," Bishop said. "Now we've got three good ones. All three of them can play."
With Schoenleber's departure, Topsail entered the season without a player who'd ever taken a snap under center in a game. First-year coach Wayne Inman gave several players a chance – "More of an open tryout than a competition," he said – before settling on sophomore Nick Altilio to lead the Pirates.
At Pender, coach Tony Hudson enters Friday's opener with Laney planning to start converted wide receiver Rayshawn DeLoach at quarterback, but he's also given plenty of preseason reps to freshman Jake Rawls, just in case.
Eric Detweiler: 343-2261
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