When the 2020 football season kicks off, all three Monroe County high school football teams will be embarking on their second year under their respective head coaches.
But that’s not the only personnel situation worth watching.
Each program will also enter the season with a different quarterback situation; one will return a veteran starter, one will feature a junior whose 2019 season was cut short due to injury and one will have to replace a longtime standout at the position.
Here’s each team’s current state of affairs at the quarterback position:
Long to return for senior season
The Sweetwater Wildcats will bring back starter Austin Long for his senior season in 2020.
Long saw starting action his sophomore year before taking on the role full-time as a junior. And he made the most of his opportunity, earning All-County honors after throwing for 1,272 yards, 11 touchdowns and just four interceptions.
Head coach Mike Martin’s offense is perfect for Long. The Wildcats run a multiple-style scheme that capitalizes on Long’s deep-ball passing abilities; Martin, who also serves as offensive coordinator, uses the ground game to set up the passing attack.
Long can throw the ball across the field, using arm strength to get the ball there and accuracy to place it where it needs to be. He is also a good athlete, which allows Martin to call option and quarterback-run plays with him if need be.
In short, the Wildcats are set with Long as their starting quarterback. And they’ve got to be happy with having him leading the team for his final season.
Chiefs will see what they have in Littreal
Sequoyah runs an exciting offense under head coach Ryan Bolinger, but the Chiefs need someone to take the reins of it.
Gabe Littreal was named the team’s starting quarterback last season as a sophomore, replacing John-Douglas Wiggins, who manned the spot for years. But Littreal’s season ended just a few games in due to injury.
Senior River Jenkins took over for Littreal, leading a Chiefs offense that showed potential at times, but ultimately struggled to get going.
But Bolinger is an experienced coach, and his progressive spread scheme could produce some big plays if run properly. Littreal is young but athletic and has the potential to be a good player in Bolinger’s offense.
If Littreal is again named Sequoyah’s starting quarterback, and he improves on the small sample size from last year, he could be a big part of Bolinger’s rebuild of the Chiefs.
Bears have to replace veteran Rinehart
Dale Rinehart started at quarterback for Tellico Plains for years, acting as the most important piece of the team’s offense. He could throw the ball well and boasted a stocky physique perfect for running the ball himself.
But the Bears will lose Rinehart to graduation this offseason, forced to fill a huge void left by the longtime standout.
Tellico, though, did have a chance to essentially test out the other members of its quarterback room in 2019. Rinehart sat the majority of the season due to injury, and backups Reid Shaw and Landon Hollinghead both saw starting action in his place.
Both Shaw, a rising junior, and Hollinghead, a rising sophomore, put together some good performances. Shaw led the Bears in passing, throwing for 570 yards and five touchdowns next to three interceptions. He also ran for 261 yards and one score.
Hollinghead, just a freshman, threw for 216 yards and one touchdown to five picks. Any first-year signal caller is going to have a learning curve, especially when thrown into starting as Hollinghead was, but he made the most of his time.
Perhaps Hollinghead’s most valuable asset is his running ability. He ran for 106 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries, showcasing the athleticism that also led him to start on defense and at punter as a freshman.
Head coach Jon Rechtorovic and his staff will have to choose which quarterback to start this upcoming season. The outcome of that decision could be a big factor in the Bears’ success in 2020 and the years to come.