It sounds strange. A quarterback pulling the ball down and scrambling for no gain, is a good play?
When the pocket collapses and no one is open, that’s exactly what a quarterback is taught to do. And Springs’ ever improving quarterback Evan Henderson has been demonstrating the maturity and intelligence of being a three-year starter in recent weeks, showing opponents that loading up the box is not going to work against the Ledgers.
As Springs gets ready for its state semifinal against Iowa-Grant on Saturday in Middleton, it’s not the running game that has stood out in recent weeks. Instead, it has been the play of Henderson and his top receiving targets: Eric Feldner and Ryan Grandlic.
Through 11 games this season, Henderson has thrown for almost 1,300 yards, completed 66.1 percent of his passes and has an outstanding 21-to-2 touchdown-interception ratio. That’s one pick every 55 attempts, compared to one in 19 over his first two varsity seasons.
“My decision making is better,” Henderson said. “I’m not forcing things, but just taking what the defense gives me.
“When I see certain plays (on film), I think I wouldn’t have made that decision as a sophomore or junior.”
Feldner agreed that Henderson is making better reads, and he was the one who pointed out the QB’s willingness to lose a yard rather than lose possession of the ball.
Some of that improved decision making can also be seen in the uptick in Grandlic’s playoff numbers. Teams have been gearing up to stop Feldner (Shiocton double-teamed him on almost every play). So instead of trying to squeeze the ball into the team’s top target he’s gone to Grandlic more often with the sprinter on the track team catching nine balls for 191 yards in three playoff games.
“If they do (give extra attention), it means they’re freeing someone up on the other side,” Feldner said of those double teams. He added about Grandlic, “I think Ryan’s a great wide receiver, a great athlete. He’s gone to state every year in track and field. I wouldn’t want to have one guy on him.”
And that’s something that can go for the team’s third receiver David Joslyn, or tight ends Matt Austin and Jacob Schneider, or even Darin Ward out of the backfield.
“All of them are very good pass receivers,” Springs coach Bob Hyland said. “You’re going to cover four receivers on every play and that’s very tough to do for a high school team.”
And not surprisingly, those pass catchers like having pass plays called.
“I like it a lot. We’re so used to blocking that when the passes get called everyone’s hoping that he throws it to them,” Feldner said. “When you pass more often, more guys get thrown to and you feel more a part of the team.”