MARYVILLE, Mo. — Maryville junior Connor Drake had a new experience last week as the Spoofhounds' starting quarterback.
For the last two years — save a couple games at the end of the 2018 season when Eli Dowis, Tyler Haer and Tate Oglesby took snaps — that position has belonged to Ben Walker. It was supposed to this season as well, but in football, things can change quickly.
With Walker injured and out for the rest of this season, the starting quarterback role goes to Drake.
“I wish Ben could be out here with us,” Drake said on Friday. “He has worked hard all three years. It is fun to get my opportunity.”
Maryville head coach Matt Webb has been adamant though, Drake doesn't have have to worry about replacing a 3-year starter at quarterback. He just has to worry about doing job, his 1/11th. That just happens to be the same thing Webb and the coaching staff ask of every Spoofhound on the field at a given time.
“Nothing I have seen from Connor Drake has surprised me in how he has handled this role,” Webb said. “It is exactly what I expected because I know the type of character the kid has.
“What I have seen from Connor is that he doing his 1/11th. Connor knows that all he has to do is go out and play his position the best he can every snap.”
Walker's injury may have taken him off the field for the rest of the season, but the senior is still an important part of the team. Webb says that having someone with Walker's experience on the sidelines and in practice is almost like having another coach.
“It doesn't surprise me that Ben knows his situation, but this team is still very important to him,” Webb said. “He has a new role. He has that new role of kind of being that assistant coach and help Connor through some things that maybe Ben has seen in his experience.”
Walker has provided a sounding board for Drake as he navigates his new role with the team and prepared for his first start last week.
“Ben has helped me out all week, just putting confidence in me,” Drake said.
Senior wide receiver Caleb Kreizinger has also been someone that Drake can lean on. Kreizinger says he has even begun teaching Drake the secret communications that he and Walker have perfected over the years.
“Even some of the coaches don't know Ben and I's little secret calls,” Kreizinger said. “We have this chemistry, we have these signs. I've been telling Connor all these signs, and he has been taking it all in and asking me all these questions. I think we are starting to get it down. We are starting to get that chemistry.”
Drake will benefit this week from the return of several Spoofhounds who have been out past two games. After seeing the dynamic return of sophomore Caden Stoecklein had last week, the possibility of having a nearly full complement of weapons is something the Spoofhounds are looking forward to.
“That is not like a Band-Aid that is going to fix all,” Webb said. “This will be a lot of these guys' first game of the season. … Getting those guys back will certainly help, but at the same time, we have to focus on everyone doing their 1/11th role better on every snap.”
Going 1-1 with such a large portion of the team sidelined was a tremendous accomplishment for the Spoofhounds though. They saw many players, who normally wouldn't have a chance to play, take advantage of the opportunity. Webb says that should only help the team and its depth moving forward.
“The experience and the minutes that these guys have played these first two weeks can only help down the road,” Webb said.
The timing of the return for many of the sidelined players is handy as well. This week, Maryville opens MEC play with Chillicothe (0-2) in the Hound Pound.
“When you want to win a conference, you always want to start off 1-0,” Webb said. “It is always easier to be the lead dog instead of chasing the entire conference season.”
The Hornets have dropped their first two games of the season, but they have been tight games with a 21-7 loss to Marshall and a 27-20 loss to Kirksville.
While the passing game has struggled early, Chillicothe's flexbone-option running game has shown flashes. They ran for 247 yards and three scores as a team against Kirksville last week.
“It forces you to be very very disciplined on defense,” Webb said. “You have to have the dive, quarterback and pitch covered on every snap. If you don't, all of them are very capable of taking it to the house.”
In addition to the conference opener, Maryville will celebrate senior night on Friday. Seniors set to be honored include Kade Wilmes, Ben Walker, Caleb Kreizinger, Connor Weiss, Trey Houchin, Brady Farnan, Christian Foreman, Matt Goodridge, Tobin Cordell, Dylan White, Garret Saldana, Cole Daniels, Jackson Ozanne and Marc Gustafson.
“These guys have given a lot of sweat, blood and tears with their commitment to Spoofhound football through their high school career,” Webb said.