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Thrown Into The Fire

By ZACH GREENWELL The Daily News zgreenwell@bgdailynews.com

Bowling Green quarterback Campbell Gott has just one season left, but this is his season.

The rising senior takes over under center for the three-time reigning Class 5A state champion Purples after three years as a reserve on those championship teams.

But Gott isn’t the only new starting QB getting his shot in the area. All five schools in Warren County will have a new No. 1 quarterback this season, including four with little to no starting experience.

“He’s been coached, and he got a lot of reps in practice,” BG coach Kevin Wallace said of Gott. “We did that intentionally. There’s some value to playing in this program for three years behind Scooter Hollis and Devin Hayes. Being in that film room, and once again, he’s an intelligent young man. One of the things that’s incumbent on me is to discover what he and our receivers do well and then fit our play-calling to those talents.”

Gott appeared in 11 games last season as the backup to Hayes, who broke nearly every passing record in program history. The latter is headed to Centre College in the fall.

Gott, easily recognizable without his helmet by his bright red hair, completed 21 of 31 passes during the 2013 season for 265 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions. He inherits an offense that’s helped BG win 44 games in a row dating back to 2011.

“Smart, coachable – better athlete than what he looks like,” Wallace said. “When you look like Opie, you don’t look real athletic. You’d be surprised that he’s got the capability of running some. Right now, it’s just a matter of gaining experience and getting as many live reps as we can get, and getting him used to our receiver corps – getting everybody in tune.”

Greenwood must replace two-year starting quarterback Josh Dyer, who broke out his junior season by throwing for 25 touchdowns and leading the Gators to one of their best seasons at 8-3.

Dyer also started last year under new coach Chris Seabolt, but the Gators will have a fresh face at the position this year.

Greenwood is looking at several players at QB, Seabolt said, including senior Ryan Hawkins – a transfer from California – and freshman Jackson Adams.

“I’ve been pleased with both of those guys,” Seabolt said Tuesday during 7-on-7 competition at BGHS. “We came out here today, and they did a good job of throwing the football and progressing through their reads. But one being young and one being inexperienced, they had some hiccups in what they were doing as well. It’s a learning curve for all those guys right now.”

South Warren enters its fourth year of varsity existence without Jay Eblen – the only quarterback the program has ever known. Eblen led the Spartans through their first season of junior varsity-only competition all the way to an 11-2 campaign in 2013.

Senior Wes King and sophomore Ryder Litten have been competing for the starting job in practice.

“We had Jay Eblen, who had been doing it from practice one, day one, for the last four years,” first-year South Warren coach Brandon Smith said. “It’s going to be a little different around here. We’ve got two good options in Wes King and Ryder Litten. They both bring different aspects and different skill sets to the table. 

“They’re both competitors, and more importantly, both of them want what’s going to bring success to the team. You want to see that team-first mentality.”

Warren Central may have the biggest adjustment at quarterback, both in personnel and scheme.

The Dragons graduated starter Chris Porter-Bunton and will transition from a wing-T offense to a pass-first spread attack under first-year coach Howard Feggins.

Feggins has been auditioning several candidates at quarterback, including juniors Chance Shanklin and Tristan Murray, and sophomores Chauncey Greer and Chance Hunt. So far, the race for an emerging leader is pretty even, Feggins said.

“They come from a system that threw the ball maybe three to five times a game,” Feggins said. “Now, they’ve got to learn how to throw from the gun and read defenses.”

Warren East has the QB candidates with the most starting experience in seniors Antwan Gilbert and Eli Brown.

Austin Pagel was the Raiders’ starting quarterback at the beginning of last season but broke his collarbone in the first game. Pagel returned late in the year for the playoffs, but East rotated Gilbert and Brown through the position in the meantime.

The Raiders also have Josh Mitchell, Dallas Betten and Dwayne Cook at QB, but Gilbert and Brown are the leading candidates at this point, coach Steve Long said. The Raiders are not participating in any 7-on-7 competitions this month.

Brown, a University of Kentucky verbal commit, would be a more natural fit at running back in addition to his next-level spot at linebacker.

Gilbert threw for 486 yards and four touchdowns with two interceptions last season. After some frustration at quarterback in the spring, the senior has started to find some confidence throughout the summer, Long said.

“We started out in the spring this year with him just playing defense,” Long said. “He had gotten to the point where he thought he wasn’t being successful, and I told him to just play defense because he’s a good athlete. But finally after three or four days, he came and said, ‘Coach, I want to give it another shot.’ I said, ‘OK. You’ve got to be confident in yourself, or the guys won’t be confident in you.’ 

“He’s completely turned it around a little bit. He’s got a strong arm and a grasp of the offense now.”

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