From freshman team to varsity starter. That’s a big jump for any high school football player, especially for a starting quarterback at one of the state’s traditional powers.
Overall, Reese Taylor handled it well. Last season, as a sophomore at Ben Davis, Taylor completed 67 percent of his passes for 1,696 yards and rushed for 314 yards.
The starting quarterback role for Class 6A No. 6 Ben Davis is a big job. Taylor is better equipped to handle everything that it encompasses as a junior.
“I’ve got a lot of people who trust me,” Taylor said. “I think everybody on this team trusts me to be a leader. From my freshman year to varsity last year was a big step for me. I went from watching as a freshman to starting varsity.”
The 5-10 Taylor got off to a solid start to his junior year, going 8-for-11 passing for 100 yards (one interception) and rushing four times for 85 yards and two touchdowns in a 70-0 win Friday over visiting Tech.
The games will get tougher, beginning with a visit to No. 7 Avon (1-0) this week. The Orioles ousted Ben Davis from the tournament last year with a 27-22 win in the sectional final.
“I know a lot of the seniors were mad last year,” Taylor said. “I heard a lot of people talking about next year, but I wasn’t worried about that. I wanted it for our seniors. This year, I feel like Avon is on our hit list.”
Taylor moved full time to quarterback last season after an injury to Azjai Cooper. When the 6-4, 195-pound Cooper returned, it was at wide receiver. Taylor saw his first meaningful varsity minutes at state champion Center Grove in a 31-19 loss.
“Everything was moving very fast for me,” he said. “This year, I feel like I’m up with the speed of the game.”
Cooper, who has committed to Eastern Kentucky, said there were no hard feelings about moving to wide receiver.
“I knew (Taylor) was going to be really good,” Cooper said. “If you are a player, you can play anywhere. That’s how I was raised. I can’t be bitter. I believe Reese will do really, really well with his speed and arm strength. I see him being a lot more comfortable.”
Ben Davis doesn’t need Taylor to do it all. In addition to Cooper, there are playmakers at receiver with seniors Noah Thomas (42 catches for 443 yards last season) and Zion Blow (18 catches, 239 yards). Jeremiah Whitthorne (419 rushing yards) is an experienced senior running back. Junior running back Johnny Adams and junior receiver KeSean Tunstill are also talented players at the skill positions.
Taylor isn’t worried about trying to make everyone happy.
“It’s about the team,” he said. “If you’re worried about yourself, this isn’t it. If you are open, I’m going to get you the ball. That’s how it’s going to go. I’m not worried about anybody else’s numbers. I’m not worried about my numbers.”
• McCoy will return: Considering the potential alternative, Center Grove received good news on Titus McCoy’s injury suffered in Friday’s 21-16 loss to Warren Central.
McCoy, a senior running back and IndyStar Indiana Mr. Football candidate, will likely miss four weeks with a right high ankle sprain. An X-ray on Saturday didn’t show a fracture to McCoy’s leg.
The Indiana State recruit will likely miss at least the next three games (at Whiteland, home to Carmel and at Ben Davis). The Trojans rushed for 194 yards against Warren Central, but 84 of those came on Russ Yeast’s 84-yard first-half touchdown.
“The thing that was so fun this summer was that we had such great balance,” Center Grove coach Eric Moore said. “You’ve got Trevor Hohlt, Russ and Titus. A three-back system, you couldn’t ask for more than that. Then guys start going down and Russ starts playing all over the field. He shouldn’t have to here. The competition is way too good. But we have to figure out a way to get him the ball a little bit more.”
Yeast, a senior who transferred in from Ohio, rushed for 128 yards on 15 carries and caught one pass for 11 yards. He also played cornerback much of the game on Warren Central top target David Bell, who finished with seven catches for 52 yards.
• Other Week 1 observations: North Central lost its 22nd consecutive game, 28-21 to Fishers on Friday night. But the Panthers held the Class 6A ninth-ranked Tigers to just 65 rushing yards and 188 yards of total offense. Those numbers bode well for the North Central defense, though the schedule doesn’t get any easier with a trip to Hamilton Southeastern this week. … It came in a 34-27 loss to Hamilton Heights, but Mt. Vernon quarterback Zac Montgomery put up big numbers Friday (29-for-43 for 328 yards and two touchdowns). So did Zionsville quarterback Blake Levy (13-for-20 for 294 yards and three TDs) in a 55-35 win over Pike. … Hamilton Southeastern’s 27-21 win over Carmel marked the first season-opening loss for the Greyhounds since 2009 (a 7-3 loss to Cathedral).
Call IndyStar reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649. Follow him on Twitter: @KyleNeddenriep.
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This week’s Central Indiana Honda Dealers’ MIC Game of the Week features defending 3A state champs Bishop Chatard at Lawrence Central, 7 p.m. Friday. You can watch the game live at IndyStar.com or on your mobile device using the IndyStar app. Also keep up with all of Friday night’s action with our new Touchdown Ticker with live score updates from across Central Indiana.