Playing the position of quarterback in a pass-heavy offense can provide a wide range of responsibility and emotions, with the weight of the team resting on the quarterback’s shoulders.
Denton’s junior quarterback Cy Ward has experienced both ends of the spectrum in his first year as a starting quarterback. With his team currently 2-2 on the season, Ward has seen his share of praise and criticism.
Ward thrived against Carrollton R.L. Turner with a five-touchdown performance in a 35-6 victory.
However, in last week’s 21-12 loss to Lake Dallas in the District 5-4A opener, Ward struggled with his accuracy, throwing three interceptions. Despite the sour taste of the loss, Ward remains calm while reminding himself of the dogma head coach Kevin Atkinson teaches all his quarterbacks.
“There are three things in the creed,” Atkinson said. “Number one is ‘it’s my fault.’ Number two is that it’s an occupational hazard that you will get hit. Number three is you are going to receive far too much credit when things go good and far too much blame when things go bad.”
Even with his three-interception performance against the Falcons, Ward still boasts a completion percentage of more than 74 percent while throwing for 927 yards and nine touchdowns compared to six interceptions.
With the Broncos running a primarily quick-pass, screen-game type of offense, even Atkinson recognizes he has put Ward in a tough position.
“It’s a lot of pressure to put on a 16-year-old kid,” Atkinson said. “I always say that the leadership of a quarterback is earned through victories.
“The way our offense goes is how our quarterback plays. That’s the style of offense we are in. If we were an I-formation team, then it would go through the tailback. If he has a bad game, we are going to be very poor on offense.”
Ward beat out senior Luke Satterfield for the starting job in the offseason, but when asked why he felt he was awarded the chance to run Atkinson’s offense, he remained humble and complimentary of his competition.
“It was a pretty rough battle,” Ward said. “Luke is really good at football. He’s not exceptional. Neither one of us is, but we are both pretty good and it was a hard-fought battle. I don’t know why I got picked, but I did. I try to stay humble and try to stay in there.”
With the Ward edging out the senior Satterfield, Atkinson said even Ward wasn’t aware of the rarity of being a starter as a junior.
“He’s more athletic when it came to leaving the pocket and running with the football,” Atkinson said. “Being stronger set him apart. It was really a close battle, but he had a little more athletic ability. He’s really lucky that he won the job as a junior. In the last 10 years, I’ve only had two quarterbacks that have played as a junior.”
Atkinson continues to remind Ward he has to improve because he isn’t guaranteed the starting gig next season.
“He’s fortunate, but at the same time I’m always going to put pressure on him,” Atkinson said. “Just because he’s the starting quarterback this year doesn’t mean he will be next year.”
A considerable benefit of Ward starting as a junior will be his developed continuity with his coaches and his team, and Ward said he feels he has already progressed significantly.
“It just makes it even better for me because it helps me gather what’s going to happen for next year,” Ward said. “Right now, I’m already 10 times stronger than I was last year. All the reads and the plays will come easier to me. I can see what’s going on a lot quicker, and the game will slow down for me.”
Ward’s father, Todd Ward, is also the receivers coach for Denton and Atkinson said he could tell Cy isn’t taking his opportunity lightly.
“He’s a coach’s kid,” Atkinson said. “He’s preparing the way he needs to, and he’s following my lead. He’s definitely not taking it lightly.”
With the upcoming showdown between Denton and Guyer tonight at C.H. Collins Athletic Complex, Guyer head coach John Walsh, who also knows something about football coaches’ sons as his son, J.W. Walsh, is currently enjoying an opportunity to start at Oklahoma State, was impressed with what Ward has done in his short tenure.
“I’m partial to coaches’ kids and you can tell the quarterback has command of the offense,” Walsh said. “He’s very efficient. When you complete 70 percent of your balls and you put it in the air as much as they do, that’s pretty impressive.”
While Ward and the Broncos will have their hands full with the Wildcats, the future remains bright for Ward, and his experience gained this season will be invaluable the second time around, according to Atkinson.
“He’s gaining so much experience,” Atkinson said. “It’s going to be like having an assistant coach on the field next year. Next to me and the offensive coordinator, he’ll probably know the offense better than anyone else in the program, which is really encouraging. I’m really impressed with what he’s done.”
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .