By Brian Eller -- email@example.com
FRONT ROYAL -- Josiah Patrick knows the pressure is on.
He knows it's up to him, as the starting quarterback for Skyline High School, to lead his team on the field in the season opener tonight. It's up to him to set and control the tempo of the game, make changes when necessary, and set an example of leadership for his teammates.
Patrick knows the pressure is on. Too bad it's not going to bother him at all come game time.
"I don't worry about that," Patrick said. "I try to let the game come to me, and I think if I do that then I'll be fine this season."
Patrick will enter the season as the Hawks' starting quarterback, and will get his first taste of football this year tonight when Skyline hosts Strasburg. The junior says his role on the field is that of a "game manager," and with a strong offensive line and running game behind him, to make sure the offense is running smoothly.
"[I] try not to turn the ball over, just manage the team and help them drive down the field," Patrick said. "I don't try to be a playmaker, but let Cliff [Woodard] and the offensive line do their thing and I'm just there to complement them."
Patrick got his first start at quarterback against Sherando back in 2007, when Skyline suffered a 61-0 loss to the Warriors. Now, he'll look to lead his team against a Strasburg team that is coming off a 2-8 campaign last season and lost last week to Warren County, 27-7.
For Skyline coach Heath Gilbert, the complement Patrick brings to the offense relies in his ability to commit to excellence. Gilbert said Patrick has always come to practice and games ready to play, and it's his drive and determination that assures him the offense will find success on the field.
Whether on the field guiding the offense to a score, or even after a routine practice, where Patrick will be one of a couple volunteers who gather up the beat-up parking cones and gray trash cans and bring them into the storage room, Gilbert can see the mark of a leader in his junior quarterback, even though he's not the most vocal guy on the team.
"He's a student of the game," Gilbert said. "He's always been ready to work hard and take the next step. He knows the playbook as good as any player out there so he's definitely a coach on the field for us."
Along with being the leader of the Hawks' offense, Patrick will have to fill the shoes of last year's starting quarterback Nathaniel White. White finished 2008 with 1,339 passing yards and 15 touchdowns, leading Skyline to a 7-3 record. Patrick said his relationship with White helped him focus on the mental aspects of the game, tutelage Patrick will look to apply tonight.
But despite not succumbing to the pressure of White's success and the familiar pressures that accompany a high school quarterback, Patrick admitted he has some reservations of making the big mistake on the field, and said his main goal will be to keep the turnover stat at a zero. That doesn't mean he'll be hesitant to zip a pass in between two defenders, however. Patrick said he can fire the trigger if he needs to.
"I know the right times and when to take shots," Patrick said. "That will definitely help."
According to Gilbert, that combination of hesitation and willingness to make the tough pass is all a maturation process.
"These are all growing pains," Gilbert said. "He's learning, and I think he's going to be fine. The more games he plays the better he's going to get."