North Medford High wrestling coach Phillip Lopez isn't the type to get carried away.
All the ingredients are there for Seth Knox to play the role of quarterback.
At 6-foot-3 and 170 pounds, the Cascade Christian senior certainly has the size to compete.
His background in basketball has honed the athleticism and quick feet necessary to elude pursuing defenders.
Add in a strong throwing arm and the mental acuity to put an offensive game plan into action and Knox has everything a coach would want in a quarterback.
But what helps set Knox apart is that he's all that and so much more. For Cascade Christian head coach Jon Gettman and his Challengers, the intangibles of the 18-year-old senior outshine any of those other characteristics.
"His character is really what's put him to the top," says Gettman. "He's a good football player with a great head. His parents have obviously done just a great job raising him because he's just a great kid to be around."
And through all his exploits — and there have been many in his first season as the starting quarterback — Knox continues to deflect all praise, opting to shower compliments on his teammates in a show of true humility.
And if you ask Knox about it, he'll say he's only falling in line with his fellow Challengers, who take an 11-2 record into Saturday's Class 3A state championship game against Nyssa (12-0) at Summit High in Bend.
"They're just a great joy to be around," Knox says of his teammates. "They have great attitudes and are always pointing at each other and not at themselves. We have a humble group of players along this whole team, and even the coaching staff. We don't point towards us or beat our own chest, we point at the linemen or at running back or wherever. I feel like all these guys just have a humble heart and are willing to serve for one another."
And while he may not be able to recognize it, no one embodies that spirit more than Knox. No matter the situation this season, he's shown an even-keel approach. Whether it was during Cascade Christian's lowest moment in a bumbling season-opening loss to Santiam Christian or after he passed for nine touchdowns in a 68-12 win over Rainier in the state quarterfinals, Knox has not flinched in who he is.
"You would never know the kind of games he's had," says Gettman. "He hasn't changed from week to week. You may get a smile after the game but I don't see a big change whatsoever with him. I think kids respond to that. They know he's a humble kid and, as a leader, he's going to be a servant and serve the other guys."
While that service is with a humble heart, it's also with a piercing arrow to the heart of opposing teams. Knox shared time in the opening game against Santiam Christian with junior Alec Furst, didn't play in a win over Burns and had a game taken from him when Rogue River forfeited the scheduled Oct. 4 meeting.
In about 101/2; games of service, Knox has completed an impressive 165 of 265 passes (62 percent) for 2,449 yards, 32 touchdowns and four interceptions. He's also carried the football 45 times for 121 yards and six TDs.
Not bad for someone who really didn't get the call to be his team's quarterback until the second week of the season. In truth, Gettman says he really didn't know who was going to play that position after Daniel Scottow moved on following last year's 3A championship loss to Dayton.
"To me, we didn't know who we had," the coach admits. "We had Alec coming in (from North Medford) and at the end of the year we had Jacob Moore (who later transferred to North Medford). I just wanted to see how the kids were going to play it out. To me, I also wanted to see once we got into a game and we got into a game and it was ugly and we said, 'Well, we've gotta go with a kid.' As a coaching staff we just said we think Seth is going to be the man. He certainly has the talent and the physical abilities."
Knox didn't start playing football until the seventh grade, and even then he was slotted as a tight end in the Challengers' double-wing attack. He says someone saw enough in him to turn him into a quarterback by the time he was a freshman, and he served in that role again as a sophomore on the junior varsity before moving up to the varsity as a freshman and sliding into a receiver's role.
When it came time to clear the deck and decide who would be quarterback, Knox didn't take offense that his name wasn't immediately on everyone's lips. A year away from the position has a way of creating doubt, so his approach simply was to try to make enough of an impression that he would earn the chance to lead the Challengers.
"I think that really helped me because I knew I had to push myself in order to get that spot," he says. "I feel like we both were good but I think the coaches just saw some things in me because I knew the kids and the team better."
Gettman says the choice became obvious in that second week, and has only served to be continually validated ever since.
"Once we saw his ability and what he can do we just said, 'Well, he's the guy for the job,' and we went forward with him," says Gettman, "and he certainly has just gotten better each and every week because he's understood what we're trying to do and gotten more comfortable with the offense."
"To me, I saw leadership in him, too, to really lead this crew and he's done a great job in doing that," adds the coach. "That's probably his biggest thing, he's a great leader and the kids really respond to him and they listen to him and they want to play for him and rally behind him."
And when it comes to service, nobody doles out the football better than Knox in a pass-happy scheme put in just this year by the Challengers.
Given protection from offensive linemen Collin Badura, Trace Walker, Tristan Jones, TJ Alvarez and Levi Clark, a total of 14 players have caught at least one pass this season, including Knox, and it doesn't seem like he cares where the ball goes. Cody Parker (58 receptions) and Cooper Clark (45 receptions) pace the receiving crew but Knox says he truly has no favorite.
And what seems to separate Knox even further is his uncanny accuracy in delivering the football to his playmakers. Whether downfield or just a slip screen in space, Knox has shown a knack for putting the ball exactly where it needs to be — possibly a product of time spent last year as a receiver himself.
"I think it helps to know how my receivers get open because I know what I liked to do to get open," says Knox. "Some of my receivers do the same thing so I feel like doing the routes that we did last year has kind of helped me with knowing what routes they like to run as well."
That knowledge, however, only goes so far for Knox. No matter how humble he wants to be, Gettman says there's still considerable talent in completing passes to a variety of targets like he has thus far.
"He has a great timing and connection with all the kids," says the coach. "It's not like it's one guy or just Cody or Cooper or David (Sellers), he's thrown to every kid. There's any number of kids who are going to break out because he has good timing and good feel for where the ball needs to go. He's done an awesome job of spreading it around."
And should the sun shine on him again, Knox says he hopes to be doing more of that on Saturday.
"This is kind of surreal for me," he says. "Ever since I was a little kid I've been dreaming of this moment and it's kind of crazy that it's here right now. I know that I have to step up as a leader throughout this week and we have to have a good week of practices because this is it, this is what I want. I want to be able to win for my teammates and Cascade Christian, and I know we can if we just prepare hard and execute."
And continue to play with a humble heart.