With the evolution of spread offenses, eclipsing 1,000 yards passing and rushing in the same season has become the gold standard for high school football quarterbacks.
Central Virginia has several quarterbacks that could reach that milestone this year despite a truncated schedule caused by COVID-19.
“That would be a huge milestone and a great accomplishment,” Monticello senior quarterback Malachi Fields said. “It’s something I would like to do and will work to get there.”
Fields and Nelson County’s George Brown Jr. eclipsed the 1,000-yard passing mark in 2019 and both quarterbacks ran for more than 600 yards for their respective teams.
Louisa County’s Landon Wilson was on pace to join the club as well before a broken ankle late in the regular season left him less than 100 yards of the mark. Fluvanna County’s Kobe Edmonds amassed more than 1,300 yards of total offense as a sophomore and is poised to take the next step.
“It’s a great feeling to be back on the field with my team,” Fields said. “The last few months have been just slow, waiting around for the season, but it’s relieving knowing the season is here.”
Fields, a UVa signee, is arguably one of the top athletes in Central Virginia. Whether it’s at quarterback, receiver or kick returner, Fields is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. In 2019, he threw for 1,119 yards and four touchdowns for a rebuilding Mustangs squad.
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound signal-caller also ran for 828 yards and 12 touchdowns. Fields spent the extended offseason preparing for a new system under Coach Matt Hicks, working on accuracy and reading defenses at the line of scrimmage. He hopes improved passing paired with his athleticism leads to winning results.
“I feel like my best attribute is my ability to run,” Fields said. “It opens up opportunities that might not be there for other people.”
At Nelson County, Brown has been an offensive dynamo. As a junior, he threw for 1,632 yards and 12 touchdowns and added 602 yards and nine scores on the ground as the Governors narrowly missed out on a playoff berth.
“I’m just glad to be with the guys and the coaches for my senior year,” Brown said.
When he wasn’t playing varsity basketball, Brown spent time working with his receivers and learning new Nelson coach Darrin McKenzie’s offensive scheme .
“I’ve mostly been doing individual work with my footwork, running to stay in shape and mostly body weight workouts since we couldn’t go to the gym,” Brown said. “I’ve been working on accuracy and footwork. My goal this season is to have a 50 percent completion percentage, more than 10 total touchdowns and more than 1,500 passing yards.”
Brown grew up watching Michael Vick and sees a lot of himself in the former Virginia Tech and Atlanta Falcons quarterback.
“He was so fast and a lot of people slept on his throwing game,” Brown said. “That’s why I like him. He can beat you on the run and with his arm.”
A student of the game, Brown has been impressed by college quarterbacks such as Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, Ohio State’s Justin Fields and UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson.
The senior said his favorite play in Nelson County’s offense is the run-pass option package.
“My mindset in the huddle is to get everyone focused and then get my guys to know that I have their backs and they have mine,” Brown said. “When I get to the line of scrimmage, the goal is to move the ball on every play, then see what coverage the defense is in and then I make my pre-snap reads.”
After an outstanding junior campaign, Brown has bigger aspirations this year.
“Throwing for a 1,000 yards is a big accomplishment. Luckily I’ve already accomplished that goal,” he said. “Now I’m focusing on extending that goal.”
Edmonds is another player that can change a game on just one play. A two-year starter at Fluvanna, Edmonds rushed for 828 yards and 12 touchdowns and threw for 502 yards and five scores last season to lead the Flucos to their second consecutive VHSL Region 3C playoff appearance.
“It feels great to finally be able to get back on the field with my teammates, even though it will be a little bit colder and not the way it has been in the previous years,” he said. “It is just a blessing.”
A point guard on the Fluvanna basketball team, Edmonds brings those same playmaking attributes to the gridiron.
“My mindset when I come into the huddle is to just be positive and make sure all my teammates know what they’re doing,” he said. “I feel my teammates look up to me because I know the majority of the plays and I’m a two-year starter, so if they have a question about anything, they can come up to me at any time. I have a bunch of plays I love to run, especially with some of the new one’s we’re adding this season. What makes me so effective is just being smart and being able to make plays on my feet.”
To prepare for the season, the Fluvanna County senior spent a lot of time working out with ADAPT in Charlottesville to help him prepare for the quick turnaround from basketball to football. He also worked out with former Covenant football coach Seth Wilson to improve his mechanics and footwork and spent time each day memorizing the playbook and watching film to focus on the season at hand.
“This offseason, I’ve just been trying to improve each and every day, no matter what,” Edmonds said. “If it’s getting better at reading defenses or even if it’s just going through my progressions.”
With Jefferson District player of the year and all-state honors set as goals, as well as district team title and home playoff game for Fluvanna County, Edmonds has set the bar high for this season.
Edmonds said one of his favorite quarterbacks is Drew Brees, who has shook off the doubters and turned in a Hall of Fame career.
“Not only did people say he is undersized, but he is a great leader,” Edmonds said, “And as a quarterback, your goal is to be a leader.”
With the season fast approaching, Edmonds is ready for the challenge of eclipsing 1,000 yards rushing and passing.
“I feel it is very difficult, because a lot of people don’t throw or run for 500 yards in a season,” he said. “So, for me, I feel it would be a great goal to achieve, either 1,000 yards rushing or 1,000 yards passing. It would be great for me because last season I fell 80 yards short of 1,000 yards rushing, so that will be one of my goals this year.”
Wilson stormed onto the scene last season, leading Louisa County to a Jefferson District title as a freshman. He threw for 921 yards and seven touchdowns in nine games before breaking his ankle late in the regular season and missing the Lions’ postseason push.
The 6-foot-2, 187-pound quarterback has fully recovered from the injury and spent the offseason looking to build off a solid freshman campaign.
“When I heard the news that the fall season was postponed, I was devastated, especially missing the last three games of the 2019 season due to injury,” Wilson said. “I was excited to get back and show how much I’ve improved. Coach [Will] Patrick and everyone here at Louisa says six games is better than none, so right now, we’re just blessed to be playing with all of the unfortunate circumstances going on.”
Wilson and his teammates have spent the past five months champing at the bit, hoping for an opportunity to get back on the field. When the VHSL announced plans for a shortened spring season, the sophomore quarterback was ecstatic
“We’ve been anxiously anticipating this upcoming season, not knowing if we were playing for certain or not,” he said. “Finally putting on helmets and shoulder pads have been a huge relief knowing that we are actually going to play.”
The sophomore quarterback made good use of the extra time, working to fine-tune some weaknesses in his game. He said he worked out two to three times a day, including lifting running, footwork and throwing. A strong-armed quarterback, Wilson feels he’s added some new wrinkles to his game.
“I think my intelligence and arm strength and accuracy makes me tick as a quarterback. Being able to read the defense and put the ball on the money makes me thrive during the game. This year I think my best attribute is my mobility,” Wilson said. “Last year, I didn’t get to showcase it as much as I am going to this year. Intelligence wise, I’ve also improved. Coach Patrick and I call all the time, making up plays and adding stuff into the playbook. Our playbook has increased drastically as I became more and more comfortable in the pocket.”
Like many high school quarterbacks, Wilson has grown fond of the RPO elements that Louisa employs in its offensive scheme.
“I can hand it off, throw the screen or take it myself and run it,” he said. “Almost every time we run it, it’s positive yards. I think being dual-threat makes me effective in our Lion-Wing offense. We could come out in spread one play and single wing the next. With me staying in the whole series, no defense can predict what formation we will be in.”
Wilson patterns his game after Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady when it comes to decision-making and understanding the offense. Wilson also channels some of Carson Wentz’s risk-taking when it comes to stretching defenses vertically in the passing game.
“My mindset in the huddle is to stay calm and confident, no matter the situation in the game,” Wilson said. “As the quarterback and leader of my teammates, they’ll react to how I react.”
Wilson understands the importance of the 1,000-yard milestone.
“I don’t know of anybody in Louisa history that has ran and thrown for 1,000 yards in a single season,” he said. “Coach Patrick and I talked about my goals and he wants me to throw for 2,000 yards and run for 1,000. That is my biggest career milestone. Although it’s condensed season, my goal remains the same.”