Winning the Southern Cascade League title seemed like a pretty bold goal this spring considering the recent history of the Cascade Christian...
There is an old adage in football that if you have two quarterbacks, you don't have one.
Ashland head coach Charlie Hall is challenging that notion yet again with positive results, leaving some to ponder whether two may actually be better than one when it comes to football's most scrutinized position.
In 2010, Hall's Grizzlies were stuck at 0-2 and in need of a jolt when he went to a two-quarterback system that included incumbent signal-caller Jake Scarminach and top reserve Jake McCoy. Ashland reeled off seven straight wins in a dramatic turnaround before finally being derailed in the state playoffs by Sherwood.
This year, Ashland wasn't moving the ball the way Hall had envisioned after a 1-2 start when he turned to reserve QB Connor Kaegi, who came off the bench to spark the Grizzlies to a win over previously undefeated Churchill. That set the wheels turning again for Hall, who still had returning junior starter Danial White available under center.
After a loss to Springfield, Hall finally decided that a two-quarterback approach would benefit the team and installed Kaegi as the starter for North Eugene and utilized White as a change-of-pace threat.
Since then, the Grizzlies have outscored their opponents (North Eugene and Marshfield) a combined 116-14 and just seem more equipped for the future.
"This does give us the best chance, I think, to go farther in the postseason," Hall said Monday night. "If these guys can embrace their roles, and accentuate their positives as a quarterback, then I just have to put the right guy in at the right time."
While most coaches wouldn't want to bother with a two-quarterback approach, Hall's previous success with such a system gives hope to him and his players.
"In my mind we don't have a starting quarterback or backup quarterback," said Hall, "we have a two-quarterback system that gives us the best of both worlds."
The move in 2010 was made to develop more ways to utilize Scarminach, the team's unquestioned leader and top offensive weapon. The difference this year is in how drastically different White and Kaegi are as quarterbacks.
"We're fortunate because we have two unusually extreme guys," said Hall. "We have a tall, strong-armed, dropback quarterback (in Kaegi) and then we have a fast, dual-threat, athletic guy (in White). In a lot of programs either one of those guys would be starting. If we didn't have one or the other, our offense would be pretty one-dimensional."
The Grizzlies are also fortunate in the fact that both quarterbacks are on board with the decision. That doesn't necessarily mean they like sharing the role, mind you, it just means that they, as well as their teammates, are more interested in putting the team goal above all others.
"You teach as a coach that it's team success above all individual honors," said Hall. "This may cost all-conference honors or things like that, but do you really want to have a good season with hopes of advancing in the postseason or have all these statistics because you're one guy in a system for a team that didn't have much success."
That last bit makes it a little easier to swallow for any of the Grizzlies, who have already seen less heralded moves in the offensive line and backfield this season in the spirit of improvement.
"Winning does keep people quiet and keep people happy," said Hall. "As long as we keep doing that it looks like this is going to be a good system, but we haven't had the test against a quality ranked opponent yet."
Another key for making it work is Hall's approach to the situation. With the help of quarterback coach Scott Chadick, he promotes complete honesty with his players, where they know what is expected of them and what areas they may be falling short.
"Those who play deserve to play," said Hall. "Whether it's 100 percent of the time or 50 percent of the time, that can change from game to game."
In this year's case, the passing game wasn't thriving and, after putting in considerable work in the offseason with ex-Ashland coach Jim Nagel, Kaegi offered a viable alternative. That said, Hall was up front with the senior before giving him his first start over White, who guided the Grizzlies to an 8-3 record and trip to the quarterfinals in 2011.
"I told Connor that it was a difficult decision to start him over Danial, who has proven he can win at the varsity level, and if this doesn't go well he may not get another start," said the coach. "I like the way he responded and I liked the way Danial has been supportive and has accepted his role with the package we use for him."
None of this would be happening, according to Hall, had Kaegi not shown marked improvement in his abilities from one year to the other.
"You have to credit Connor Kaegi for putting himself in that position because a year ago he wasn't close to being put in that position but Connor was persistent and worked hard and put the time in to improve," said Hall. "It's a great lesson in trust. You work your butt off and we're going to make decisions based on that and you just trust that we're going to make the right decision on who gives us the best chance to win."
In this case, that means utilizing both Kaegi and White.
Each has their own offensive packages and gets the same amount of practice reps, with either as likely to go first during team drills as the other. Kaegi is expected to continue starting the games but White is the go-to guy when Ashland nears the red zone or needs to control the clock. There's some crossover to the plays each will run, and Hall is open to throwing in new wrinkles to keep teams honest.
"It's nice to have some of that flexibility that we have," he said.
White has carried the ball 53 times for 343 yards and seven touchdowns and completed 72 of 123 passes for 867 yards with five TDs and five interceptions. Kaegi has run 11 times for 22 yards and one score and completed 38 of 67 passes for 604 yards, five TDs and one interception.
TWO WINS IN ONE WEEK wasn't in the plans when Cascade Christian's football team put together its 2012 schedule but that's exactly what transpired this past week, even though the Challengers' final win-loss total for this season will now put them over the maximum number of regular season games allowed.
Last week, the Challengers were informed by Creswell that the injury-depleted Bulldogs were unable to fulfill their scheduled obligation and would forfeit. Cascade Christian then got a call Tuesday from Rainier, which was dealing with a similar forfeiture dilemma, and the top-eight 3A teams quickly put together a neutral site contest for Friday that the Challengers eventually won 35-0.
The combination of the two wins now puts Cascade Christian's overall record at 8-0 with three Southern Cascade Hybrid games remaining. Football teams are allowed a maximum of nine regular season games in a season, however, with the ability to add one endowment game that doesn't count against that total.
Cascade Christian already had a full complement of 10 games, but double-dipping on wins last week will be allowed due to an Oregon School Activities Association rule. Schools granted forfeits are allowed to schedule replacement contests without the concern of going over the limit of contests since that game wasn't played.
"What they've done now with forfeits is it just helps your win percentage, it doesn't affect opponent's win percentage or the opponent's opponents' win percentage," Cascade Christian head coach Jon Gettman said of the power rankings system. "It doesn't count as a game played."
"It wasn't something that we were looking for at all," added Gettman. "In fact, I told the kids we were not looking for a game and then (Rainier) called us on Tuesday and it was too good of an opportunity to pass up. It was short noticed but it turned out for the good."
The OSAA's Scorecenter did not have the forfeit by Creswell credited to Cascade Christian's football totals as of Monday night, meaning the Challengers will likely have to contact the group to have it included.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, email@example.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry