Leadership skills, pride in preparation are as important as skill set in leading a football team
They play the most glorified position in American team sports.
They are always in the spotlight, win or lose.
They understand it is all part of the role.
Those who make it to the starting role at the high school varsity level also know that no matter how much individual attention is thrown their way, none of them got there on their own.
The best quarterbacks talk about the support from their teammates. Or the coaching they received. Maybe even the inspiration from others. When they were younger, they watched quarterbacks and asked them how they did it. They found out there is a lot more than just going to practice.
Skill is only one of many attributes a quality quarterback must have in order to succeed. Over the past few days, we talked to several quarterbacks in Clark County, to get their perspective on what it takes to be successful.
Jake Blair is a state champion from Camas.
Alex Gehrmann of Union has waited for his shot.
JJ Woodin of Evergreen is hoping to make the most of this abbreviated season, his first and only season in Clark County.
Riley McCarthy of Mountain View has proven his ability to throw and run for the Thunder.
Mason Priddy of Columbia River has the ‘it’ factor with his team, even after suffering a season-ending injury on Saturday.
Tom Lambert absorbed quarterback wisdom his whole life, the son of La Center coach John Lambert.
Jarod Oldham is just getting started at Hockinson, a sophomore with a big future.
This is not a list of the best or any kind of ranking. Just some thoughts from some of the starters representing teams in Class 4A, 3A, 2A, and 1A football.
Jake Blair: Character counts
In order to lead, one has to be the type of person one can respect. That’s not just for teammates. It’s for the community.
Jake Blair plays for the defending state champion and a traditional powerhouse.
“Playing for this team, especially at the quarterback position, you represent the team and you represent the town,” Blair said. “Camas is a football town. When we’re allowed to have fans, the whole town shuts down and comes to the game.”
It is important to Blair that he is more than just a good quarterback. He wants to live up to expectations off the field, too. He said it is a dream come true to be the quarterback at Camas.
As far as succeeding on the field, Blair said one must do all the film work, to be prepared for every opponent. And in practice, always have a purpose.
“Don’t go through the motions when you do the drills,” Blair said. “Do the drills with the intent to get better.”
Blair went 8-0 as a starting quarterback last year, leading the Papermakers to the 4A Greater St. Helens League title before an injury ended his season. He became a leader on the sideline, helping the Papermakers to the state title. Since then, he has accepted an offer as a preferred walk-on at Oregon State.
It is clear that he knows a thing or two about success at the position.
Alex Gehrmann: His time
Alex Gehrmann was a back-up when the Union Titans won the state championship in 2018.
A year ago, he shared the quarterback responsibilities, getting a few starts as Union went through some adjustments after that incredible perfect season.
Now, this is Gehrmann’s job. He is 2-0 this season, with wins over rivals Camas and Mountain View. Gehrmann threw four touchdown passes in the first half Friday, helping Union pull away from the Thunder.
“It’s a huge honor. I’ve come a long way. The whole team has come a long way since I was a freshman. We’ve all been grinding together, and growing together, and becoming the best that we can be,” Gehrmann said.
“It’s really great to be here right now, my senior year, especially not knowing if we’d have a season,” he said. “It’s just great to be out here and be a part of leading this team.”
As a quarterback, he must set the tone for a day’s workout, a practice, and then a game.
“Leadership is a big part of it,” he said of the success of the position. “Our big thing is … the speed of the leader is the speed of the pack. If you go fast, everyone follows behind you. You have to keep the tempo up.”
JJ Woodin: Only six games in Clark County
JJ Woodin moved to Vancouver last winter, becoming a student at Evergreen in hopes of earning the starting role for a team on the rise, with a chance to make the playoffs and do some damage.
A transfer from Lake Oswego in Oregon, he knew he would only have one season to shine with the Plainsmen. So he went right to work, meeting teammates, working out with his new receivers, doing what he could to find the right chemistry.
At the time, he had no idea COVID would hit. He had no idea he would only get six games scheduled for his senior season with his new team.
Now? He’s making the most of it.
He threw four touchdown passes and for more than 300 yards in a Week 1 victory over Prairie, the defending league champion. In Week 2, he led Evergreen on a 73-yard drive in the 2-minute drill, setting up the game-winning touchdown run by O’Shay Jackson in a win over Heritage.
“As soon as I got here, I made a great connection with some of the guys like Jaylen Fite, Jonathan Landry, and Jonathan Simon,” Woodin said of some of his receivers. “The reason we’re successful right now, the reason we are doing what we are doing, is we didn’t just grind for three months. We grinded for 15 months.”
The Plainsmen were flying high after their Week 1 win. In Week 2, though, Evergreen went up against an inspired Heritage defense. Things weren’t going great for the Evergreen offense.
Woodin said the role of the quarterback is to keep the positive vibe, even during tough times.
“The key is staying focused, staying consistent, staying locked in, making sure you’re showing a good demeanor and making sure you don’t bring anyone on your team down,” Woodin said. “As a quarterback, if you look down … the whole team is going to follow that direction, and you can’t do that.”
Woodin said it was a great team win on Friday, crediting the defense for “killing it.”
Riley McCarthy: Leadership, in victory and in defeat
In Week 1, Riley McCarthy threw for four touchdown passes and rushed for more than 100 yards in Mountain View’s win over Kelso.
In Week 2, McCarthy threw four interceptions.
“Extreme ownership. Always,” McCarthy said.
Don’t point fingers. At halftime on Friday, he told his teammates that 14 of Union’s points were directly because of his miscues.
These things happen. In football games. In life. Take responsibility, McCarthy says, move on, and try to improve.
“Mathieson says it after every single game,” McCarthy said of Mountain View coach Adam Mathieson. “Whether we win or lose, flush it at midnight.”
McCarthy loves that an athlete like him can play quarterback at the high school level. He doesn’t have to be a guy who drops back and passes all the time, like most at the professional level. McCarthy said he was more like a running back last year, anyway. There are all kinds of quarterback styles in the high school ranks.
The good ones share at least one thing in common, though.
“The biggest thing is you’re the guy everybody looks at,” McCarthy said. “Being a leader, I honestly believe, is the biggest thing.”
This season, that took on even more importance.
“Especially during this weird COVID year,” McCarthy said. “Just always trying to be the guy who is always communicating, always trying to bring the guys together.”
Mason Priddy: Injury cannot dismiss his ‘It’ factor
It is tough to describe. It is almost best to just be a witness.
You know it when you see It.
Mason Priddy of Columbia River has that “It” factor. Talk to his coaches. Talk to coaches in other sports at his school. They will tell you, he has “It.” His teammates respect him. They love to play with him, for him.
This might have been River’s time, too. River was hanging with six-time defending league champion Hockinson the whole game Saturday, falling 16-6 after the Hawks scored a fourth-quarter touchdown to get some breathing room.
Oh, and Priddy, the field general, played less than a quarter. An injury knocked him out of the game. When he was in there, he was 6 for 7 for 84 yards and a touchdown, plus he had a 25-yard run.
Priddy suffered a broken collarbone, and the River offense was put in a tough spot.
The injury changes the season, of course, but Priddy has some advice for his back-up, Adam Watts, and all quarterbacks.
“Trust in all your teammates and listen to all your coaches,” Priddy said. “Pretty simple. If you’re a quarterback, you just have to be disciplined, listen to your coaching, and trust your teammates, and everything will be OK.”
Show them you have their back, and they will run through a wall for you. That’s the It factor. Priddy still has it, too.
Tom Lambert: It’s a family thing
Tom Lambert is in his third season as the starting quarterback at La Center, but he is probably in his 16th season of football.
We’ll give him a couple of years of learning to walk and talk before he actually, you know, became a football player.
His dad, John Lambert, has been the head coach at La Center since before Tom was born. So Tom has been hearing football stories and learning about La Center’s strategies all of his life.
“I always knew a little bit more (than the norm) because he knew so much and would always tell me,” Tom Lambert said of his football IQ. “In the fifth and sixth grade, I really started to ask a lot of questions. I started to ask more questions to know the game a lot better.”
Even with that knowledge, though, an athlete still has to perform. Lambert has done just that. Lambert was named one of the athletes of the week in the state by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association earlier this season.
Lambert has put up big numbers many times throughout his career, but he says that is not the key to being a good quarterback. It is leadership, which leads to big numbers.
“You have to bring people up,” Tom Lambert said, noting that self confidence is a must for football players.
“Part of being a quarterback is to help bring everyone up,” Lambert said. “Everyone makes mistakes, but move on to the next play.”
The quarterback has to be the one to say it’s alright.
“We got this,” Lambert said.
When teammates trust the quarterback, that is when the entire offense works together as one. Naturally, when that happens, a quarterback’s statistics will get a positive lift. But it cannot happen without his teammates.
That’s a family thing, too.
Jarod Oldham: The next big Hawk?
The last two quarterbacks at Hockinson High School will go down as community legends.
Canon Racanelli could talk a great game, and then play even better. He didn’t predict a state championship his senior year. He promised one. Then delivered.
Then came Levi Crum, who helped the Hawks repeat as state champions in 2018 and led Hockinson to the state semifinals in 2019.
To the next guy, no pressure, right?
“After Levi and Canon, I get really nervous coming into the games,” Jarod Oldham acknowledged.
It does not show.
Oldham had a great debut in Hockinson’s first game, struggled a bit in the second game but still got the W, and then on Saturday, he led the Hawks on a 95-yard, game-securing touchdown drive against Columbia River to improve to 3-0 as a starter.
Oh, and he is a sophomore.
“For me, the key is having such great friends and great coaches,” Oldham said. “They’re always supporting you, and they’ve always got your back. You make a bad play, and they tell you to get over it. They’re just always there for you.”
The demands of the position call for leadership. Oldham has his own style, but a benefit of being a sophomore in his first year as starter is he can rely on his older teammates to take over some of those leadership responsibilities.
Oldham does not have to lead Hockinson to a state championship in his career to prove anything.
However, in order to live up to the standards of a quarterback, he will have to prepare like a champion, treat his teammates as champions, respect his coaches, and honor his school.
That is the way of a quarterback.