With every new football season comes turnover. People graduate and others have to step up and take their place.
Typically each season, there’s a new quarterback somewhere around the county taking over for the guy before him. But what’s not typical is for all five area football teams to have a new man under center. That’s exactly the case this season though as Benjamin Russell, Horseshoe Bend, Dadeville, Reeltown and Central Coosa will all be under the direction of a new quarterback.
“There ain’t much pressure anymore; I’ve gotten used to it at this point,” HBS quarterback Holt Tidwell said. “The team really surrounds the quarterback so they all believe in me and they’ve got my back.”
That’s the theme around the area as several of these guys could be the starter for years to come. Tidwell played a bit last year after the departure of Nywanski Russell midway through the season and despite being just a sophomore, Tidwell has the most experience at varsity quarterback out of the five newcomers. Dadeville’s Lane Smith and Reeltown’s Iverson Hooks are also just sophomores but both won their jobs during the offseason. Benjamin Russell will be led by Carter Smith, who is a junior, and the only new quarterback who’s a senior is Ryan Payne, who will take over Central Coosa’s offense.
Payne is in an interesting boat for several reasons. Not only will he be the starting quarterback for the first time, Payne is also playing his first year of football in general. A starter for the baseball team, Payne has a competitive edge and he hopes to bring that to the Cougars on the gridiron.
“I’ve always wanted to play,” Payne said. “Just this year, I actually pushed myself to go out and play and talking to some of the coaches motivated me to go out and play. I’ve just been learning from the people who’ve been there before me. Like Donta Daniel, I’ve been learning from him and learning from the coaches and just trying to do my best.”
Payne might actually be in the toughest situation of all the new quarterbacks. Although Coosa now has 21 on the roster, it has struggled to get players out for practice during the summer so Payne’s had to learn with few very players around him.
“It’s very difficult,” he said. “When you only got five or six people at practice, it’s hard. You can’t work with the defense so you don’t know how they’re going to work against the defense because you don’t have anybody there.”
Both Lane Smith and Carter Smith, on the other hand, have seasoned offenses around them but there are a lot of eyes on both quarterbacks as they take over for veterans. Lane Smith replaces Slade McCullers who started for two seasons for the Tigers while Carter Smith will take over for Landon Cotney, who was virtually a three-year starter for BRHS.
“I’m really just worried about doing good for my team,” Lane Smith said. “We have a good old skill group and most of them are seniors so I’m just trying to help them out this season. And they talk to me in the locker room after practice and pump me up during practice. They’re always telling me it’s all right and trying to keep me going.”
Carter Smith, who’s never started a varsity game before, has an added pressure of being the coach’s son but he’s hoping his arsenal of offensive weapons will help ease the transition.
“At practice, the expectations are a little bit higher,” Carter Smith said. “I’m always around football with (coach Kevin Smith) but it’s fun. (The skill players) take a little bit of the pressure off of me and I have trust in them. Being with them all summer, I trust my receivers and my running backs.”
Like Carter Smith, Hooks has one of the most loaded offenses in the area with Reeltown’s returners and new skill players. Hooks knows there are several players he can depend on to get the job done.
“That makes it a lot easier,” Hooks said. “I can give the ball to Cam (Faison) any time and know we’re getting a first down. I can throw the ball to Johnny Brown or Eric Shaw and I know they’ll catch the ball. So really, they make it a lot easier to be a quarterback and I’m just here to help the team to and make it as far as we can.”