Losing a player to an injury is something a football coach and a team never want to see, but having a qualified player step into that void is a great thing for a team in a time of crisis.
Three area teams saw injuries to their starting quarterbacks during the first week of the prep football season, but even though Armuchee, Pepperell and Cedartown all lost leaders on the field that night, their teammates were there to finish what they started.
Armuchee backup quarterback Kameron Parker proved he could lead the Indians’ offense, playing a part in both of Armuchee’s touchdowns on the night that senior quarterback Devin Pledger suffered a season-ending injury.
Parker rushed for a 10-yard touchdown and connected with Sylvester Bassey on a 28-yard touchdown pass in the final minute of the game, which proved to be a confidence boost for the young quarterback.
“It showed me I could do it, just live everybody else could,” Parker said. “It definitely helped.”
Armuchee head coach Jeremy Green said he was glad to see Parker do well when the time came for him to step up, but said playing the entire game will be a new experience for the player.
“I’m sure that he needed that, and we needed that,” Green said about Parker’s performance. “He’s going to have to grow up in a hurry. The first five series of a game are whole lot different than the last five. The kids will rally around him and the coaches will rally around him.”
Facing an off week, Parker will have some extra time to get ready for his first start this season when the Indian’s host Haralson County on Sept. 6.
“It’s a big role to play on the field, but in the way of being ready to lead my team and help us win, I think I’m ready for it,” Parker said. “I’m glad I have a little bit of time to get ready and to get myself ready to lead the team. With or without the week, we’re still going to work and do what we have to do.”
For Pepperell, the situation may not be as permanent. After coming out of last week’s 17-7 loss to Darlington, junior quarterback Gage Moses is day-to-day but is expected to return to practice for the Dragons. When Moses came out in the third quarter, backup sophomore Shannen White was there to finish the game for the Dragons.
Cedartown quarterback Taji Hudson endured serious injuries during the Bulldogs’ season-opening loss to Rockmart and was taken to Erlanger in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he remained hospitalized until Wednesday, according to Cedartown head coach Doyle Kelley.
Fortunately for Kelley, he’s got options at quarterback. MJ Holliday, whom the Bulldogs will now look to at the quarterback position, was able to have some success against a tough Rockmart opponent.
The sophomore threw a 69-yard touchdown pass to Chadriq Neal in the fourth quarter of the 31-12 loss to the Yellow Jackets.
Kelley said another option at quarterback is junior Jayden Johnson, who also plays defensive back. Kelley said both players have seen increased reps at practice.
“You just never dream you’ll lose your starting quarterback,” Kelley said. “It can go two ways — It can tear us apart or it can bring us together. They know how important (Taji) is, and they’re going to rally around whoever we put in. We know how important he is, but we have kids that are capable of stepping in and they’re going to accept this challenge.”
Darlington went through a similar situation in 2018 when starting quarterback Griffin Brewster tore his ACL in the second game of the season. The Tigers had backup Frank Manning to fall back on, who was able to lead the Tigers to the second round of the Class A Private state playoffs.
“We were blessed to have a young man that was ready to step in and did a tremendous job,” Darlington head coach Tommy Atha said. “I was proud of our kids last year. They took the mentality of what do we have to do to adjust, what are the things we have to do that might be a little bit different, but still give us a chance to be successful? You focus on the things you can do. There’s no time to worry about the things you can’t do.”