ARGYLE — At the beginning of the season, when Argyle’s starting quarterback spot was open for the first time in almost three years, the one who was tabbed to fill the vacancy was a junior who had virtually no prior experience at the position.
Head coach Todd Rodgers approached Brandon Boyzuick in the spring to play the position previously held by Austin Aune, who had started since his sophomore year and lost only four games before being drafted by the New York Yankees this summer.
Today’s game will be another chance for Boyzuick to improve, a chance for him to pass the 2,000-yard mark for the season and a chance to show he’s much better than he was a few months ago.
The Argyle Eagles face Melissa in the Class 3A Division II area round today at 2 p.m. at C.H. Collins Athletic Complex.
Argyle (10-1) has won 10 straight games since a season-opening loss to Abilene Wylie. Melissa (9-2) won last year’s Class 2A Division I state championship. The winner will play Atlanta or Gilmer in the regional semifinals next week.
“There’s been signs of inexperience, but there’s never been signs of immaturity,” Rodgers said of Boyzuick. “That’s kind of got a negative tone to it, but that’s the essence of finding the right guy to lead your football team.”
Based on what Boyzuick did last week, it seems Rodgers made the right choice. In a 45-0 rout of Bridgeport, Boyzuick completed 21 of 29 passes for 315 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for a touchdown for good measure.
That’s not the same quarterback who struggled tremendously against Abilene Wylie in Argyle’s only loss. In that contest, the junior completed eight of 18 passes for a mere 57 yards and two interceptions.
But taken out of context, his season-opening performance can be misleading. Prior to getting thrown into the fire against a strong Wylie team, Boyzuick’s experience consisted of the Eagles’ two preseason scrimmages.
“He just didn’t have any experience as to what he should be doing and what he shouldn’t be doing,” wide receiver Ian Sadler said.
At the outset of a quarterback’s journey, he’s given simple throws and simple plays in the running game. Then plays are added to the playbook. The learning is compounded throughout the season, and as defenses adjust and become more complicated as well, the learning curve accelerates.
Rodgers said Boyzuick’s capabilities at the beginning of the year were where they were supposed to be.
“He just didn’t have a large repertoire of experiences to pull from in those situations,” Rodgers said. “The offense was limited at that time of year because we were working through a progression of teaching him what he needed to learn. But we couldn’t move on to the next progression until he grasped the different concepts.
“He was right where he was supposed to be. He just didn’t have enough experiences to be successful after two scrimmages. He just wasn’t ready yet.”
There have been points during the year when he’s shown he’s now ready. Against Frisco Lone Star, when his primary and secondary receiving options were taken away, Boyzuick proceeded to “play catch,” as Rodgers said, with his third receiver.
Against Celina, after the Eagles trailed 7-0 after an early turnover led to a touchdown, Boyzuick helped anchor the comeback — another sign of his maturation.
One play call was a screen pass. The pass was blanketed by the defense, and Boyzuick confidently threw the ball into the ground and sacrificed the down instead of making a costly mistake.
He’s become more comfortable in his new position. To get to know his teammates better, he’d hang out with them off the field, including weekly dinners at a senior’s house.
“I think I’ve matured a lot since the beginning of the year,” Boyzuick said. “I’ve gotten to know everybody, gotten to know all the plays.”
Sadler said Boyzuick tends to be reserved when he meets somebody. But then he tends to be a funny guy.
Rodgers said Boyzuick is more mature than he looks has the “big-picture view of things.” His demeanor has helped him grow into the quarterback Rodgers wanted.
“One of the things that has been a huge positive on Brandon’s behalf has been his composure,” Rodgers said. “He’s not real excitable, but he’s motivated. He’s very fired up. He’s got a very optimistic attitude. But he’s not a ‘rah-rah’ guy. He doesn’t need to jump around to get motivated.”
Boyzuick’s not the quarterback he was at the beginning of the season, and he’ll be tested again by a very sophisticated Melissa defense, Rodgers said.
The character needed for the position can be seen on the right side of his upper lip. It’s a small abrasion he got when he was 8. He was at baseball tryouts and was fielding balls out of a pitching machine. A ball nicked the edge of his glove and smashed him in the mouth, leaving a gash that required more than 30 stitches to close.
After being smashed in the mouth against Wylie, he’s rebounded and looks to lead Argyle to a repeat appearance in the Class 3A Division II state championship game.
“He’s got tremendous leadership skills, and the kids have tremendous confidence in him,” Rodgers said.
BEN BABY can be reached at 940-566-6869. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.