Back in August, football fans around the Oklahoma City metro area were buzzing about a high school scrimmage — yes, a scrimmage — because of two names: David Cornwell and Justice Hansen.
That night, both star quarterbacks got hurt and exited early. It was a fun night, but it came up short of the show some had hoped to see.
A little after 7 Friday night, it was starting to look like the regular season was going to be a re-run.
Cornwell, the Norman North quarterback and Alabama commit, had already been declared out for the season a couple days earlier, after undergoing surgery on his right knee.
And Hansen, Edmond Santa Fe's quarterback who is headed to Oklahoma next year, went down with what looked to be a severe injury when it happened, with a player rolling over his foot from behind — “I thought it was fractured,” Santa Fe coach Lance Manning said.
Manning and the Wolves got good news about Hansen's ankle over the weekend, learning that he could be back on the practice field by Tuesday, with the possibility of playing Friday night against Norman in a key District 6A-4 game.
So the Year of the Quarterback might not be totally lost after all.
Of course, the injuries have allowed Norman North and Santa Fe to remind us that their cupboards aren't bare at the quarterback position, either.
Edmond Santa Fe had its most passing yards of the season in Friday's 50-33 loss at Lawton, with sophomore Keaton Torre taking all but a few snaps. The outcome was a defeat, but Torre showed courage and toughness being dropped into a rough situation unexpectedly.
At Norman North, junior John Kolar made his second start since Cornwell was sidelined. Kolar had rallied the Timberwolves against Yukon when Cornwell got hurt, and he beat U.S. Grant in his first start.
But his performance Friday night was the most impressive yet, throwing for 326 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions while rushing for two scores against a legit Edmond North defense in a 42-35 victory.
Here's why all of that is impressive. Back in August, when we were giddy about a glorified practice involving a couple of star players, Torre and Kolar were preparing for seasons as backup quarterbacks, having never played a meaningful down of varsity football.
And being a backup quarterback — whether you play for the Denver Broncos or the OKC Broncos' 8-and-under team — you're spending most of your practice time doing something other than playing quarterback.
Torre had been getting 20 percent to 30 percent of the snaps during team and 7-on-7 periods in practice, and then watching Hansen the rest of the time.
It was a different challenge for Kolar, because he was spending the majority of his time as a starting wide receiver during first-team work. And the athletic 6-foot-4 junior was looking like a pretty good one, until he was needed behind center.
“I was always taught, and still believe, that your starter needs to get 75 to 80 percent of the snaps with the first team in practice,” Manning said. “In a game, if I'm able to get Keaton in, I'm always willing to do that, to let him get some snaps in game action.”
The fact is, being a backup quarterback isn't an easy job. And filling in for an injured star is even tougher. Doing it on the road against a stout opponent adds another level of difficulty.
But Norman North's goals haven't changed with Kolar behind center. The same could be said for Santa Fe, though it looks like Hansen will be back in the near future, if not this week.
Here's what Manning said about his backup, and could just as easily be Wade Standley speaking of his: “Our expectations on offense don't change with him in there. He's gonna be a special player. A lot of people around the state would probably like to have him as their starter.”