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HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Two Eagles make one position flow

READ MORE: Read up on Frida’s two playoff games in our weekly high school football capsules.

POLLS: Don’t forget to make your vote in this week’s two polls - Voters’ Choice “Game of the Week” and How Many Will Advance?”.

 

Quarterback rotations aren’t always successful.

Their pitfalls are well documented. At their worst, they take offenses out of their rhythm and sometimes divide locker rooms.

But Colonial Forge has used a time-share at the critical position to its advantage.

Playing both Damen Daniel and Gary Jennings has given the Eagles the firepower to help turn a good offense into a great one.

Both players both give the Eagles a chance to win. And both have bought into that idea as they try to lead their team deeper into the playoffs.

“I think the two kids have allowed it to work because of their attitude about it,” Colonial Forge coach Bill Brown said. “There’s no animosity. There’s no attitude or body language or anything when the other guy goes in. They just say, ‘OK, I know the other guy is going to help us win.’”

Daniel, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound senior with a strong and accurate arm, and Jennings, a 6–2, 190-pound junior with blazing speed, both do things to spark the Eagles’ offense, and they will continue to split time at quarterback during this postseason.

“We can mix it up. We’re so versatile. Gary is real athletic and can run the ball. We can both throw the ball well enough to get things going,” Daniel said.

Colonial Forge (9–3), which plays at Ocean Lakes (12–0) tonight in the 6A–South region quarterfinals, started giving Jennings snaps at quarterback near the midway point of the regular season. For the last four weeks, Jennings and Daniel have split snaps.

The rotation has paid dividends for the Eagles. They scored 21 first-half points last Friday in a 27–13 win at powerhouse Hylton in the region quarterfinals after topping its season high in points in back-to-back victories against Riverbend (37–27) and Thomas Dale (47–26).

“I think it’s been a big plus for us,” Brown said.

Over the past four games, Daniel and Jennings have combined to complete 33 of 49 passes for 565 yards and six touchdowns and rush for 605 yards and nine touchdowns on 87 carries.

Jennings has been more of a running threat, with 365 rushing yards and eight touchdowns during that time, and Daniel has been the bigger passing threat with 364 yards and four touchdowns through the air.

They both have an array of talents that make it hard for opposing defenses to stop them.

“What it gives us is a 1–2 punch,” Brown said. “They both have skills that they can throw and run, and each one of them does it a little differently.”

Their dual-threat capabilities were on full display in the Eagles’ victory over the Bulldogs on Friday. Daniel started the game and moved the ball with his accurate throws and gritty running, and he gave Colonial Forge an early lead with a 52-yard touchdown pass to Daniel Ezeagwu on the team’s second offensive play.

But when Hylton played its inside linebacker more in coverage to take away some of the Eagles’ intermediate passes, Brown turned to Jennings to capitalize on the matchup advantage near the line of scrimmage.

The faster pace of the offense with Jennings in the game made it tough for the Bulldogs to adjust to the offensive rhythm.

Jennings had touchdown runs of 1 and 67 yards and finished with a game-high 145 rushing yards.

“It’s been fun making plays and all. I’m just glad I can help the team out and do whatever I can,” Jennings said. “I feel like I’ve gained more of a knack for the end zone, just to run for it, run hard and make plays.”

Brown said he has no set game plan for how he uses his quarterbacks. Daniel starts and a change is made when Brown feels the offense needs a different look.

Brown compares it to a baseball manager making pitching changes to take advantage of matchups.

“In baseball you switch pitchers and you can’t put the other guy back in. We can put them back in anytime we want. The switch up gives us another little boost, I think,” Brown said.

The rotation hasn’t been ideal for Daniel, who would prefer to take every snap. But he has been battling an assortment of nicks and bruises while also splitting time at linebacker, an arrangement that has been in place since the midway point of the regular season.

“It’s for the team,” Daniel said. “Sure I would love to play every snap, but if this is what’s going to help the team, this is what we need to do.”

Nathan Warters: 540/374-5442

nwarters@freelancestar.com

 

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