CHOCTAW — Choctaw quarterback Jonah Llanusa has vivid memories of his first trips to Yellowjacket football games as an elementary school student.
“We went under the bleachers and played with our friends,” the 6-foot-1, 190-pound senior said. “But now, we’re getting to the point that people actually come to the game to watch the game.”
Choctaw’s rebirth is still in the early stages, but there’s promise for the season ahead — and Llanusa is a big reason why.
Last season, in the first year of coach Todd Dilbeck’s new offense, Llanusa threw for more than 2,100 yards and rushed for over 600. This year, even more is possible from the underrated dual-threat quarterback.
“He’s had a great summer,” Dilbeck said of his quarterback. “A year ago, you could tell that he wasn’t quite seeing all the coverages and all the reads. But he has really improved his grasp of the progressions of the passing game.
“He’s the hardest working kid I’ve had in 31 years of coaching. Nobody is gonna out-work him. His maturity level has really grown as a player and as a leader.”
Llanusa already has a scholarship offer from Navy, where the coaches believe his athleticism and decision making are a perfect fit for their option offense. But Llanusa is getting some looks from colleges more focused on throwing than what the Midshipmen are.
“He’s been under the radar because he really hasn’t done much so far,” Dilbeck said. “He runs so well, and he can throw the ball, so I think a lot of people are waiting to see what kind of year he has.”
And there’s a third group of colleges, like Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Georgia and others, who see Llanusa playing somewhere other than quarterback at the next level.
“I really want to play quarterback in college, but I’ll play anywhere just to play football,” Llanusa said. “This senior year is gonna be big for me in recruiting.”
Knowing that, Llanusa is fully focused on preparing for the season, with the hope of taking Choctaw to the playoffs for the first time since 1984. The Yellowjackets have a lot of weapons in their spread offense, but the combination of Llanusa to Jacob Rapp is one to watch.
The duo hooked up 93 times last season, and Rapp is a dangerous playmaker when he gets the ball.
In the first season of the Class 6A split, Choctaw will be one of the top teams in 6A Division II, coming off a 3-7 season against a schedule full of bigger schools.
“We’re excited to be playing teams our own size,” Llanusa said. “I’m really ready for the season, and I know my teammates are, too.”