Young quarterbacks at Palisade, Central prove they’re ready to play
Quarterbacks are always in the spotlight. That spotlight is even more intense when it’s your first varsity start barking signals.
Luke McLean and Taylor Sanchez learned last week what that first start is all about.
“(A quarterback) has to be tough,” Palisade coach John Arledge said. “If he isn’t, his team won’t respect him.”
McLean, a sophomore, led Palisade to a 30-14 win last week over Central and Sanchez, a junior making his first varsity start at quarterback.
McLean completed 6 of 10 passes for 79 yards and a touchdown and ran for 30 yards and two touchdowns.
Arledge thought his green quarterback handled the game about as well as he could have.
“He was confident but he wasn’t cocky, he was sure of himself,” Arledge said. “He made some mistakes, which was something we expected to a degree, but in the pressure situations he was fine and I didn’t see the wide eyes.”
McLean’s easy-going demeanor is something not usually associated with a sophomore quarterback. He isn’t afraid to joke around or be the butt of teammates’ jokes.
The 6-foot, 175-pound quarterback’s teammates and coaches often point out that he’s larger than his brother Zach, who plays on the offensive line.
“Coach (Arledge) likes to say I’m like a guard running the ball,” McLean said. “I’m bigger, so I don’t mind the contact, and I don’t try to run around anyone.”
McLean spent all of last season as the starting quarterback for the freshman team, but it’s a big jump to go from playing on Wednesday afternoons to Friday nights.
McLean said it comes down to confidence.
“You have to have the confidence in yourself that you aren’t going to go out there and fumble the snap every play,” McLean said. “I want to play at my best to give my team the best chance to win.”
Although McLean is still getting adjusted to the game speed on the varsity level, Sanchez has experience on varsity, just not on the offensive side of the ball.
“Taylor has played a lot, he started every game for us on defense last year,” Central coach Vern McGee said. “But even with that, stepping in as a quarterback and the speed of the game there, he would tell you it’s faster.”
Sanchez produced almost 95 percent of the Warriors’ 221 yards of offense against Palisade.
He scored the Warriors’ only two touchdowns on runs of 52 and 44 yards.
“I thought I’d be nervous, but it really wasn’t too much different,” Sanchez said. “Playing as much as I did on defense helped me get prepared.”
Sanchez showed he’s more than able to be an offensive playmaker.
“We tried to get him ready throughout the summer as far as what we expect,” Central offensive coordinator Casey Doss said. “How to run a huddle, how to be a leader, and he was a little rusty and nervous.
“You could tell there were a couple delays getting in and out of the huddle, so we addressed those things and will continue to watch film.”
Both players are trying to get the game to slow down. The defensive players at the varsity level are bigger and faster and don’t make as many mistakes as junior varsity and freshman players.
“Taylor’s a high-energy kid who tries to do too much anyway,” Doss said. “So that’s something we’ve talked to him about, having him slow down and taking what’s being given and not trying to do too much on your own.”
The biggest advantage Sanchez and McLean have is time. Since both are underclassmen, they have a couple of years to improve.
“When I’m a senior, I want to be able to say I did my best and won every game I could,” McLean said.
Sanchez wants to continue to grow as a team leader.
“You have to be an all-around leader,” Sanchez said. “Even though I don’t play as much defense, the defensive guys still look to me, so it’s a privilege to know everyone is looking to you, and you have to come through on that.”