Friday in review: Area teams start season with new quarterbacks on offense
NATCHEZ — Caleb Upton remembers the first time he started at quarterback for Cathedral High School — and what a mess it was.
It was his 10th-grade year, and the Green Wave were playing St. Frederick Catholic School in Monroe, La.
“It was a hurricane come down,” Upton said. “I couldn’t hardly grip the ball or throw it.”
There was no rain Friday night when Upton watched his successor, Thomas Garrity, take the ball under center for the Green Wave against Adams County Christian School. Upton said he was impressed with the way Garrity performed after Garrity was 8-for-11 in passing with 221 yards and four touchdowns.
Garrity was one of several rookie quarterbacks to take the field Friday night for a Miss-Lou team, and he said he saw noticeable improvement in one week after going just 2 of 13 for 30 yards in a jamboree game the week before.
“I feel about pretty good about the whole rest of the season,” Garrity said.
Garrity said there’s nothing like being the starter, no matter how much you prepare for it.
“A jamboree or practice, not so much hype, but when you play a game, especially against a team right across the city from you, there’s a lot of hype to it,” Garrity said.
Upton said his advice for Garrity going forward is to not rush things and just settle into the position.
“Just stay in the pocket,” Upton said. “Stand tall in the pocket. Don’t shy away from the contact. Deliver the ball.”
The Rebels used a two-quarterback system to open the season, with Brandon Ross going 3-for-11 with 9 yards passing and Trey Fleming going 4-for-9 with 40 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Ross, who started the game at quarterback, got some helpful advice from former Rebels running back Chris Perry when ACCS was trailing Cathedral.
“I just think they’re more nervous than anything right now,” Perry said during the game.
“I just told him that they need to relax, that it’s the tension right now more than anything. It is (Cathedral) out here right now, but if they relax, I think the game would be a lot different.”
Perry wasn’t the only former Rebel on-hand. Johnny Smith, who played quarterback for ACCS last season, said each quarterback brought something of value.
“It reminds me of LSU with Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson,” Smith said when comparing Ross to Fleming. “I think if they get it together, they’re going to do really well.”
Ross said after the game that being under center gives him a natural high during the game that you don’t get in practice.
“You get the biggest chills, butterflies, everything,” Ross said.
Fleming said he’s looking to build upon Friday’s game as he helps carry the load for the Rebels’ offense.
“Playing with new teammates, new people, it’s great to just learn what they do,” said Fleming, who transferred to ACCS from Trinity Episcopal Day School over the summer.
“I did pretty well, but I could have done way better, so next game, I have to bring my best.”
Smith said his advice to Ross and Fleming would simply be to hit it hard.
“Hit it hard when they run it, hit it hard when they throw it,” Smith said. “Don’t think, don’t hesitate, just react.”
Natchez High School
Last season the Natchez High School football team started the season with Derrian Johnson taking the snaps. This year, Johnson is still on the team but Friday night he was catching touchdown passes instead of throwing them.
The Bulldogs opened the 2012 season with sophomore Anthony Robinson under center and Johnson as one of his main targets at wide receiver.
Natchez lost its season opener to Wilkinson County High School 24-22, but Johnson said he liked a lot of the things he saw from the Bulldogs’ new quarterback.
“I think he did really well,” Johnson said.
Robinson admitted he had a few jitters early in the game.
“After the first completion and the first hit I felt alright,” he said.
Robinson completed eight of his 12 passes for 92 yards and one touchdown — a 15-yard strike to Johnson. He also rushed for 65 yards.
Unfortunately for Robinson, the biggest play of the game might have been when he fumbled after a long run on the Bulldogs’ final drive of fourth quarter.
“I felt alright with everything I was doing,” he said. “(The game) didn’t go how I wanted, but I did alright except for the fumble. I just have to hold the ball high and tight.”
Johnson said Robinson could learn a lot from his first start, and the senior wide out will be there to help his new quarterback every step of the say.
“He needs to trust the line, and we have to get better up front,” Johnson said. “He just needs to get better on his reads. I talk to him every day, and I will keep pushing him.”