By Jeremy Stafford -- firstname.lastname@example.org
STRASBURG -- A year ago, Michael Reynolds was little concerned with learning Strasburg coach Mark Roller's offense. Even though Reynolds was the backup quarterback, Bub McKelvey was slated as the starter. Instead, Reynolds was preoccupied with earning a starting role as a cornerback, and so he learned just enough of the offense to get by.
"Just in case Bub did get hurt, I had to make sure that I knew everything," Reynolds said. "I was more focused on defense, 'cause I needed a spot.
"That was my spot and I coulda' lost it, so I needed to stick with that."
But what first seemed unlikely soon became reality: McKelvey was sidelined early last season with an injured shoulder, and all eyes fell immediately upon Reynolds. After fighting just to keep a starting role as a defensive back, Reynolds was suddenly starting at football's most glamorized position.
Reynolds, then a sophomore, started his first game against Skyline, and completed 4-of-6 passes for 20 yards and two interceptions in a 35-0 loss.
Still, when McKelvey returned from his injury, he was moved to wide receiver and Reynolds remained behind center, completing 39 passes for 522 yards and six touchdowns last season.
Reynolds admits that, initially, he had trouble memorizing the entire playbook.
"It hurt my head at first but I caught up to it pretty quick," he said. "I know it pretty well now."
This season, Reynolds is stronger, he can throw the ball farther and more accurately, he has a better feel of the pocket around him, and, perhaps most importantly, he has a complete understanding of the Rams' playbook.
Of course, there's always room for improvement.
"I mean, sometimes he could throw tighter spirals," running back Tanner Orndorff laughed, "but he gets the job done."
A junior, Reynolds knows he will have to be a beacon of guidance this season; with eight seniors returning for the Rams, only three of which have had significant playing time, Reynolds is already one of Strasburg's most experienced players.
"Last year he was thrown in there and wasn't quite sure of what was going on yet," Roller said. "This year he knows what's going on.
"He's stronger, he's a year older, and his leadership skills are a lot better."
And while Orndorff, who rushed for 957 yards last season, will once more bare the brunt of Strasburg's workload, he can at least revel in the knowledge that every one of his brutal rushes will play its part in setting up a deep Reynolds hurl.
The junior has shown before that he has an eye for the open receiver.
At Page County, Reynolds threw a 66-yard bomb to Will Orndorff on a third-and-10, setting up the go-ahead score in the Rams' first win of the season.
"He has some of that, so hopefully this year he can gain some ground and do a little bit better than what we did last year," Roller said. "He had some times that things didn't always go his way, and he threw a lot of picks in certain games, but we didn't just stop throwing.
"He's gotta learn from his mistakes, and I think that's how you get better, is you don't dwell on your mistakes but learn from your mistakes."