Back in flight
EAGLE POINT — It was never easy for Nate Page, watching from the sidelines. But Oct. 16, 2015, was especially painful for the Eagle Point quarterback.
Crater beat the Eagles, 31-14, that night, and just about all Page could do was look on. The signal caller's season had been cut short five weeks earlier, when he broke his right ring finger against Henley in Eagle Point's second contest of the fall.
"I wanted to play bad," Page recalls. "Real bad."
Fully healed now, Page has been electric in leading the Eagles to a 2-0 start this season. The commander of a well-rounded offense, the senior is 16-for-20 passing for 441 passing yards with eight touchdowns and one interception in two games.
Eagle Point hosts Springfield in the Midwestern League opener Friday at 7.
Considering the past, Page is savoring every moment of 2016.
"It feels awesome being back," he says. "I am actually really happy and glad. All the emotions were crazy at first. Now it's just working as a team to get where we need to be and prove something."
To Page, that means showing that he can hold his own at about 5-foot-9, 175 pounds.
"I just need to stay healthy," he says. "I can take a big hit, but I want to play smarter now. I'm trying to play for the next down."
As for where the Eagles need to be? Page, head coach Seth Womack and the rest of the club are shooting for the stars after Eagle Point went 2-7 last year and 0-9 in 2014. The school hasn't made the playoffs since 2013, but optimism runs strong here, Womack says. His offense is stout with playmakers and his defense has allowed the fewest points in Class 5A thus far.
And oftentimes, Womack says, it begins with Page.
"Nate is one of the best high school kids I've been around sitting in the pocket until the last second," he says. "That’s hard to teach. He's a great leader and a guy who teammates rally around. Nate's all about winning and doing things the right way."
This time last year, Page had just endured surgery and sported a cast on his finger after being hit late by a Hornets lineman the Friday earlier. The injury occurred during the second quarter, Page recalls, but he didn't notice the pain — or the damage — until afterward.
"I took my helmet off and looked down and (my finger) was not put together well," he says.
It was the start of a frustrating season.
"I had a lot of people come up and ask why I wasn't playing,” Page says. “It was hard. I kind of just lived through it and tried to help my team any way I could without playing. It really sucked being on the sidelines.”
Adds Womack: "We were 2-0 last year, too, and he was off to a hot start."
Down the road of recovery Page went, ultimately leading him back to the gridiron and Womack's version of the Wing-T offense this summer. The cupboard was far from empty, and the 17-year-old Page has since feasted on his options. He's connected with six different receivers on touchdowns — Preston Johnson, Bennett Rodgers, his brother Noah Page, Tanner Lonning, Hunter Morgan and Jacoby Jackson — while guys like Rodgers, Johnson, Jaxson Jones, Tanner Jostad and Josh Saenz have pounded the ground with equal vehemence.
"We've got (running backs) getting off the ground and then we're sending in another," Womack says. "Guys aren't getting a lot of carries each but they are making big plays."
Page was 9 of 11 for 230 yards, three scores and one pick in a 44-0 victory over Ridgeview last Friday and, in Eagle Point's season-opening 53-12 triumph over Glencoe, went 7 of 9 for 211 yards and five TDs.
"In our offense, we can still run it down your throat and then it makes it hard for opponents to be ready for a deep pass on a rollout," Page says.
Says Womack: "He's a competitor, he's got great technique, great footwork, accuracy and great arm strength.”
Page also has a lot of something else, Saenz adds.
“He’s got a lot of heart,” the senior says. "He'll do anything for the team. He's a great leader and he doesn't give up, that's for sure."
Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email email@example.com. Find him online at twitter.com/danjonesmt