The difference in winning and losing in the Southwest Junior College Football Conference is often the quality of quarterback each team sports.
As the seven SWJCFC teams ready themselves to start the conference season, it’s obvious that this could be the year of the quarterback.
If there is an exception to that rule, it’s at Navarro, where a potent ground attack that averages more than 334 yards has produced a nation-leading 11 touchdowns in the No. 2 Bulldogs’ 2-0 start.
The Bulldogs have not had to lean on steady quarterback Josh Greer (60.5 percent passing) so far this year thanks to the duo of Cameron Washington (275 yards, 3 TDs) and Tim Wright (171 yards, 5 TDs) and an offensive line that has dominated Arkansas Baptist and Hutchinson in successive weeks.
After spending much of last season on the negative end of the plus-minus turnover ratio, the Bulldogs are already a strong plus-3 this season.
Thanks to that potent ground attack and an opportunistic defense that has accounted for seven turnovers and two touchdowns, the Bulldogs are nicely filling their role as preseason co-favorites to win the SWJCFC.
It’s been the quarterback position at Trinity Valley and Tyler that has caught the early attention of conference fans.
The Cardinals, who suffered through a miserable 2012 in part to lackluster play under center, have benefitted from UTSA transfer Ryan Polite. The redshirt sophomore leads the conference with 548 yards and 5 TDs, completing 66.7 percent of his passes. Polite kept Trinity Valley within a touchdown in the season opener against defending NJCAA champion Iowa Western and then decimated Coffeyville last week (72-7) by completing 25-of-32 (78 percent) for 259 yards and four scores.
Tyler, which defeated Fort Scott in its opener, 49-26, received a 222.1 quarterback rating out of starter Randy Price. But it is who’s waiting in the wings that has the Apache faithful excited.
Matt Davis, who served as a backup to Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, arrived on campus late in training camp and saw limited action against Fort Scott. By the time he entered the game, it was a full-on rout and he did not attempt a pass, though he rushed twice for 14 yards. The rangy dual-threat quarterback could provide Tyler with a missing piece in an offense that already sports running back Leroy Dobbins (15-170-1 vs. Fort Scott).
Down in Brenham, Blinn is attempting to build its offense around multi-talented quarterback Garry Kimble. But the Bucs are 0-2 this season, losing to a surging Georgia Military team and to perennial power Butler (44-14) last week.
Blinn is managing just 239 yards offense this season and Kimble has yet to thrive as he often did as a freshman. Kimble has completed 36 of 65 passes in 2013, but is averaging only 4.5 yards per attempt and he’s been picked off twice.
Kilgore started the season as the No. 7-ranked team in the country after a strong finish last season. However, the Rangers stumbled at home last week against Dodge City despite terrific numbers by sophomore quarterback Tanner Tausch (23-33-2-225-1). The Rangers committed five turnovers and their defense generated none in a disappointing 27-16 loss in their opener. Tausch has shown the propensity to lift Kilgore on his back, as he did for much of his first season, though a consistent running game and a new set of receivers will have to step up if the Rangers are to fulfill their co-favorite status with Navarro.
Northeastern Oklahoma welcomed back former star quarterback Shannon Poteete as it head coach with a dominant 44-14 win over Highland last week. Quarterbacks Tony Kiefer and Mitch Manley are dueling for the starting job, but the Golden Norse ground game has proven outstanding, leading the nation with a 377-yard effort in the opener. Freshman Elliot Hawkins rambled for 158 yards (17.6 average) and 2 TDs in his college debut, and veteran Sheldon Wilson contributed 113 yards and another score.
Cisco, which opens the conference season at home against Navarro on Thursday night, is still a bit of a mystery team in the league. Quarterback is the area that appears to be ailing the most after last week’s season opening loss to Garden City. Starter Jacorey McQueen, a talented dual threat from Central Texas, has the potential to terrorize opposing defenses. But he completed a meager 5 of 24 passes (21 percent) and was picked off once in the Garden City defeat.
Navarro is joining Cisco and Trinity Valley in taking a week off before the conference season starts in earnest with the Navarro-Cisco tilt.