It was a hot and humid night – in San Saba, Texas.
That’s when Tolar head football coach Mike Franklin began to embrace an idea that many football coaches might reject. As a result of that Aug. 31 season opener, he realized that switching quarterbacks in the middle of a game is not a crisis for the Rattlers – it can be a strategy.
In that game, players were dealing with excessive heat as well as stifling humidity.
Tolar’s starting quarterback Corbin Wood stayed on the ground longer than usual after being knocked down a couple of times. Senior Landon Morris came in to play quarterback after Wood went to the sideline and promptly ran for a 1-yard touchdown. Sophomore Dakota Endsley also came in to spell Wood, and completed four of seven passes for 57 yards.
Franklin explained that Wood wasn’t injured, but “ran out of gas” in the steamy conditions. The junior also starts on defense, using significant energy at the “bandit” position (outside linebacker/end).
Franklin realized Wood had to have more time to rest.
Tolar, 2-1 after thumping De Leon 39-0 on Sept. 14, appears to make the quarterback transitions seamlessly.
“We made that decision (after the San Saba game) on that Saturday – and on Monday on the practice field (Wood and Endsley) were both in there,” Franklin said.
Franklin said there have been no problems with what he calls the “ongoing rotation” – with Wood and Endsley taking the bulk of the snaps.
For each of Tolar’s two wins, Wood was at quarterback for the first two series before Endsley went in.
“It gives us a good 1-2 punch,” Franklin said. “They’re just enough different that it keeps the defense on their heels.”
Having more than one quarterback ready to start at the varsity level also provides flexibility in various game situations, according to Franklin. He said all three are good ball carriers. Wood, he noted, may have more strength, while Endsley tends to be more elusive.
“All three have accepted the role, and accepted what’s best for the team,” Franklin said. “A starter on our team is almost a loose term because we’ve got so many that roll in and out (of games).”
Tolar is averaging 134 yards passing. Wood and Endsley have completed 33 of 69 total passes with three TDs and four interceptions. Morris, who Franklin said is the short-yardage QB, has attempted one pass.
“They’ve all led teams to good seasons (beginning in seventh grade), and all three have positive leadership qualities,” Franklin said. “Our biggest dilemma was how can we use all three, because all three are leaders and headsy, smart athletes. They’re good athletes and know how to make things happen on the field.”
Each of the three quarterbacks got their first varsity experience as sophomores.
In limited playing time his sophomore year, Morris compiled 567 yards in total offense, including 353 yards passing. As the starter in four games last year, he had 535 yards in total offense before undergoing season-ending reconstructive knee surgery. Wood closed out the season as the starter.
Morris suffered a sprained MCL on his other knee in this year’s first scrimmage. He was cleared to play only three days before the San Saba game. He plays with braces on both knees.
“With his injury last year, he’s about seven months behind in his training,” Franklin said. “Because of that, it’s better to use him at wide receiver where he doesn’t take as much punishment.”
Endsley was the starting quarterback as a freshman on the JV a year ago, but also had major injury woes. He missed a few games with a wrist problem, then saw his season end when he suffered a broken femur in the fifth game.
Tolar’s quarterback situation may seem unique, and Wood agrees. He said he’s all for anything that will win games.
“I think we’re a very unique team. I think it works well for our program,” Wood said.
Wood said he also has faith in the other quarterbacks, adding, “and that’s how we like it. Everybody gets to stay fresh the whole game. As long as we’re winning, that’s all that really matters to anyone on this team. There’s no selfish players on this team.”
Endsley has completed 16 of 24 passes, with a TD and one interception. He plays some at cornerback and safety.
“I think it’s been good,” Endsley said. “It’s been a great achievement for me just to be on the varsity.”
Because they are prepared, Endsley said, each QB switch is a relatively smooth transition.
“(Coach Franklin has) given us what the game plan is, and once we adjust to that it’s not really a big deal,” Endsley said.
As one of eight receivers with significant playing time, Morris is second on the squad with six catches for 58 yards, behind only Grant Winston (7-60).
Morris, who starts on defense at safety, also indicated he’s only concerned with winning.
“All we’ve got to do is win. Making the playoffs is our goal. As long as we get there, it doesn’t matter when I play.”
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