Over the course of the first four games of the season, Spencer Plant has gone from that guy people had barely heard of to the premier quarterback among the current class of Greater Valley Conference slingers.
For a 6-foot-1, 170 pound junior from Sprague High School who had played half of a varsity game as a sophomore to beating out his best friend and incumbent starter, Justin Culpepper, to become the starter was one thing.
Now he’s rewarding the coaching staff of the Olympians for sticking with him even when things looked bad after a tough loss in the second week.
After Friday’s convincing 49-27 win at McMinnville, Plant has the Olympians (3-1 GVC) in second place in the league and No. 3 in the OSAA’s power rankings.
“He’s definitely staying more confident in the pocket,” Culpepper said. “The first couple games he was a little jittery, just trying to get out.
“He’s grown up as a man and he’s definitely doing his job now, just staying in the pocket and just being confident with every throw that he’s made so far.”
Plant’s 18 of 23 passing for 256 yards effort was the model of efficiency – his quarterback rating was 171.75 against McMinnville.
More than that, Plant is finding ways to make bad situations into good ones with his legs.
With Sprague clinging to a 14-6 lead in the second quarter, he faked a handoff to running back Noah Mellen, saw daylight in the left of the field and sprinted 37 yards untouched for a touchdown.
“I definitely think I’ve learned a lot of things,” Plant said. “I think my pocket presence has gotten better.
“But I also think that we’ve grown so much as a team already as well and I think that we just continue to get better every week and if we keep doing what we’re doing, we can go really far this season.”
Plant, who played mostly JV ball as a sophomore, entered the second half of the Olympians’ 34-27 playoff loss to Sunset last year and nearly brought the team back to win that game.
He kept the momentum this season despite being thrown in the fire right off the bat this season, performing well against defending GVC champion South Salem – 11 of 19 passing for 158 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another.
But a 36-29 loss to West Salem brought him back down to earth as he was 6 of 13 passing for 48 yards and one touchdown, but was intercepted twice.
“I think we were a little nervous against West,” senior running back Dane McKinney said. “And I think that I was super nervous and I’ve been doing this for longer than he has. And I made some plays that made him look bad, and he had a really tough time.
“A lot of time it ends up falling on the quarterback even when it may be somebody else’s fault. I think that he, over the past few weeks, hasn’t let him get that down. And I think that’s the only thing you can do in football is make sure that even when a big loss like that happens. It’s not how hard you fall, it’s how many times you can get up.”
Sprague’s coaching staff could have made the decision to put Culpepper – who went 7-3 as Sprague’s starting quarterback as a junior – back to the starting spot.
But they stuck with Plant, and he has rewarded their faith with two straight wins where he guided the team to 50 and 49 points.
Culpepper is now transitioning to receiver, catching two passes for 39 yards against including one that set up a one-yard touchdown run by McKinney.
When Culpepper was installed as the starting quarterback as a sophomore – displacing then senior quarterback Austin Brown in the process – Brown moved to receiver.
Culpepper’s move to receiver gives Plant another athletic target, and he has plenty as he connected with seven receivers against McMinnville.
“With all the athletic guys we got, anybody could play anywhere, pretty much,” Culpepper said. “We’ve got a bunch of great guys personalitywise, and just knowledge of the game. Throw them in and we can do their job.”
bpoehler@StatesmanJournal.com, 503-399-6701 or Twitter.com/bpoehler
Sprague 49, McMinnville 27
SPR 14 7 21 7-49
MCM 0 6 14 7-27
SPR- Noah Mellen 2 run (Will Deloretto kick) 3:40.
SPR- Dane McKinney 55 fumble return (Deloretto kick) 1:10.
MCM- Cedric Agcaoili-Ostrom 4 pass from Wyatt Smith (kick failed) 7:51.
SPR- Spencer Plant 37 run (Deloretto kick) 4:56.
SPR- McKinney 17 run (Deloretto kick) 10:10.
MCM- Agcaoili-Ostrom 1 run (Colton Ramos kick) 7:55.
SPR- Nick Brotton 49 run (Deloretto kick) 6:13.
MCM- Mason Wennerstrom 4 pass from Smith (Ramos kick) 3:13.
SPR- Mellen 1 run (Deloretto kick) :46.
MCM- Tyler Sitton 12 pass from Smith (Ramos kick) 7:39.
SPR- McKinney 4 run (Britton Hemmert kick) 4:24.