Back at practice, Wahconah football undergoing change at quarterback position
They've come in several shapes and sizes, with differing skill sets and tendencies, but one thing they've all had in common is a high level of productivity.
Senior captain Jeremy Girard will get the first shot at replacing departed starter Will Genaway under center as the 2016 state Division IV runners-up get ready for life in Division VII. Junior Tim Clayton could also see time at quarterback. Girard, a standout lacrosse player, has only seen mop-up duty at quarterback over the last three years. But, the time on the sideline allowed him to improve on the mental aspect of the game.
"There's no doubt being an understudy of someone like [Genaway], all you can do is learn," Wahconah coach Gary Campbell Jr. said. "It's almost like having a big brother. It always seems like the little brother is always a little further ahead, because they've let the big brother make all the mistakes and then they get better and better."
Girard's spent time behind Genaway and former starter Nick Clayton. Tim Clayton is Nick's younger brother, so both players have studied under quality quarterbacks, taking leadership traits from both players.
"I'm kind of a quiet kid," Girard said. "I'm not a hothead, I don't like to get too loud, but I know there are many ways to lead.
"As I learned from Nick Clayton, I don't think he said a word, but he always led by example. When he needed to talk, everyone listened. When he had something to say it was important.
"The same with Will. He was kind of a quiet kid, but as he came into his role as a senior captain, he started to get a little louder and get people pumped up."
From Genaway, to Clayton and Ethan Wells before him, each player led the team in his own way. Genaway was a 2016 All-Berkshire and Western Mass. Senior Bowl selection, throwing for 20 touchdowns and adding nine more on the ground. Clayton, more of a pure pocket passer, threw for 25 touchdowns to just one interception while completing over 60 percent of his passes as a senior in 2014. Ethan Wells, a former running back, took over the quarterback reins as a senior, combining for 1622 yards and 19 touchdowns en route to a Berkshire County MVP selection in 2013.
Campbell said he does his best to mold his system his quarterback's skills.
"The offense revolves around their talent," he said. "Someone like Nick Clayton is a pocket passer, he threw really well. I didn't ask him to be like Ethan Wells, who was a running back.
"What we do is we adapt to our talent really well. So we hope that shows and it has. The quarterbacks can come here, if they've got a skill set that's throwing the ball and doing those things — we're going to revolve it around that. If their skill set is more of a runner, that's great. Obviously, I'd the best of both worlds, but we just try to build around the skill-set and it's worked."
Talented options at receiver such as Connor Washburn, Cole Morrison and Darrow Brown have also helped keep the passing offense rolling. Girard said having a coach with knowledge of the position is a great help as well.
"Coach Campbell was a quarterback himself and he knows a lot," Girard said. "He says quarterbacks are the world, so he really pushes us. He puts a lot of pressure on us. ... Quarterbacks can't be too high, can't be too low. They've always got to keep everyone right at the median."
Both Girard and Clayton are three-sport athletes. Campbell said the quarterbacks have great feet, but Clayton may have a stronger arm. He wants to use Girard's mobility to his advantage, so elements of the option that were present under Genaway should remain in the offense.
Girard will continue to grow as a leader and player throughout the season. He knows Wahconah's quarterback is always under a spotlight, but the even-keeled senior appears ready to step up to the big stage and take command of the position.
"I'm looking to get back to where we were last year," he said. "I just want to lead my team the best way I can and get back to Gillette [Stadium]."
Reach sports writer Akeem Glaspie at 413-496-6252 or @TheAkeemGlaspie.
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