It’s a cool Friday night in late October, and noisy fans pack a high school football stadium.
The game is tied late in the fourth quarter, but the home team is driving steadily down the field. The quarterback receives the snap within striking distance of the end zone and surveys the field. To his dismay, no one is open. The wide receivers and tight ends are all covered, and even the running back — the supposed safety outlet — is locked down.
So the quarterback goes with the last option available to him. He runs. He scores. The home team wins, and the spectators are delighted.
It’s a scene that has become more and more common over the years as high school coaches have grown to favor dual threat options to lead their offensive attacks, and Hall County teams have been no exception.
“Having a running quarterback, a mobile quarterback, helps,” Chestatee coach Shaun Conley said. “That’s another guy that they’ve got to account for. If you’ve got just a pure passer, then they know they can drop more and bring more and stuff like that. But with the dual threat quarterback, it does help you offensively, play calling, extending the play and stuff like that.”
Conley would know as well as anyone.
The War Eagles unleashed mobile quarterback Christian Charles as a sophomore last season, and after a slow start, the young signal caller quickly found his footing. Charles rushed for 1,446 yards on the year, scoring 19 touchdowns with his legs.
He also passed for 1,781 yards and eight more touchdowns, proving he was equally dangerous no matter what he was doing with the ball. His signature moment came in the team’s 45-42 victory over Fannin County, during which Charles put together 542 total yards and six total touchdowns.
But as Charles prepares for 2019, he’s keeping his eyes forward rather than on what he accomplished as a sophomore.
“It’s a new season, and last year is really not important,” he said. “It’s just really being productive this year and doing what I can to help the team.”
Finding productivity this year is the name of the game for every Hall County quarterback this season, and it seems that more frequently than ever that production is expected to come from the legs of area signal callers as much as their arms.
Beyond Charles’ own expected output, North Hall’s Wing T attack will always require athleticism from the man under center, and Lakeview Academy coach Matthew Gruhn even suggested the Lions would look into using option looks that keep the ball on the ground with frequency.
One of the most exciting newcomers to keep an eye on when it comes to dual threat QBs; however, is Riverside Military Academy’s Shad Dabney, a rare junior captain for the Eagles. Dabney takes over at quarterback from recent graduate and Gainesville native Isaac Teasley, and much like Teasley, Dabney has already proven himself as a basketball and track star for Riverside Military.
Now, the multi-sport athlete, who recently received his first Power 5 college offer from Arizona State, hopes to prove himself on the gridiron.
“I see myself as a playmaker,” he said. “This is something that I’ve always wanted, so I’m going to step up to it.”
Eagles coach Nick Garrett, who referred to Dabney as “arguably the best athlete in the state,” couldn’t agree more.
“(Dabney) understands every phase of the ball and every position on both sides,” Garrett said. “We’re excited about that, and like I said, he’s extremely hard to defend. Teams are going to have to worry about it.”
Between Dabney and Charles, Hall County teams have all the speed and athleticism at the quarterback position to light up scoreboards on a weekly basis, and no doubt signal callers will be putting up eye-popping numbers regularly.
Just don’t expect all the yards to come through the air.
After all, even if opposing teams have effective plans to shut down passing attacks, it will take more than that to shut down Hall County’s best athletes.
“We just take what (defenses) give and do what we do,” Charles said.