DeWitt had the ball for the first time against Owosso, and senior Jacob Heath trotted onto the field and felt like he was going home.
“Oh, yeah, I’m heading out there with the first-stringers again,” he thought, “and I’m going to take care of business with them like we did last year.”
Heath took the first snap and lofted a pass to Josh Bortra, who caught it and trotted into the end zone.
One play, one touchdown, one heck of a moment.
“It was a perfect play call and a perfect catch,” Heath said. “I can’t really describe how all the emotions kind of rushed back to me and the thrill of hearing everyone yell and scream because we just scored a touchdown.”
Heath knew the feeling — because he experienced it a year ago.
Last fall, he was beaten out for the starting job by sophomore sensation Jacob Johnson. But Heath never pouted and, when Johnson suffered a broken thumb, he stepped in and led DeWitt for six games and played well until Johnson returned.
Johnson, who has completed 75 of 102 passes for 1,327 yards and 22 touchdowns without an interception, suffered an injured spleen two weeks ago. In his place, Heath was an amazing 15-for-18 for 342 yards and five touchdowns in a 42-0 victory over Owosso.
What is this kid still doing at DeWitt? In this day and age of schools of choice and unfettered free agency, why didn’t Heath find himself a school looking for a quarterback? Didn’t he hear about the kid who started on a state championship team last fall but didn’t like the position he played and transferred schools for his senior year?
But Heath never would consider abandoning his teammates — even if it meant a season full of starting assignments.
“Jake’s been awesome,” coach Rob Zimmerman said. “He has a lot of friends on the team. He’s a great kid — great character kid — and wanted to continue to be a part of our program. He’s a coach’s dream as far as a backup quarterback — he’s very talented and a great attitude as well.”
Heath is talented, so he went to camps and combines last summer to show what he could do. He has visited Akron and Saginaw Valley State and will visit Robert Morris.
Johnson’s health is a day-to-day situation, so Heath might start tonight against defending Division 5 champ Portland. But if Johnson starts, Heath will be on the sideline, signaling in pass protection and plays like he did the first six games of the season.
And he wouldn’t trade that for starting at another school.
“I felt like it was the right move to stay with my guys,” Heath said. “To be honest, it was more of a camaraderie thing than it was anything else. I’ve been playing with these boys since freshman year.
“Me being able to step up last year and lead them to some victories and they had my back the whole time. I felt it would be the wrong thing to do to leave them in the dust and not play my senior season with them.”
Heath desperately wants to play, but he understands what loyalty means. We need more kids like him.
Mick McCabe is a columnist for the Detroit Free Press