Monday, January 14, 2013
Kevin Herbst (4) embraces an Abbeville player after the state championship game ended.
Individual battles for playing time can tear any team apart. The Bishop England football team didn’t know who its starting quarterback would be until after Sertoma.
Seniors Kevin Herbst and Nick Theos both wanted the reins of a defending state championship team. The quarterback position isn’t one to split passes up throughout a game. You either have your quarterback, or you don’t.
Theos won the battle among Bishops after a solid Sertoma performance. Herbst looked shaky and not confident. Coach John Cantey gave the job to the hot hand.
That was Aug. 16. Fastforward 106 days to Nov. 30.
Herbst managed the Bishop England offense with confidence and efficiency to a second consecutive state championship victory. He had 20 carries for 132 yards and threw for 55 yards on 4-of-5 passing attempts.
Theos threw a 62-yard touchdown pass in an early jolt of offense, and he gained 16 yards on the ground.
“They forgot I played quarterback at the beginning of the year,” Theos said.
How did that happen?
Theos solidified Cantey’s decision through the first two games. The senior ran for a combined 233 yards as the team’s leading rusher.
The Bishops are designed to run, run and run. And then run some more.
Theos fit the bill.
Then, in the closing minutes of Bishop England’s only season loss to Hanahan, Theos was sacked in a ankle-spraining tackle. Afterward, he said he was fine and the ice wrapped on his ankle was precautionary.
But, as ankles tend to do, the swelling blew up in the hours after the trauma. Theos turned in his pads for khaki shorts, a camouflage-colored BE hat and the dreaded walking boot for six weeks.
There was no rush to bring him back, Cantey kept saying after the Bishops blew past Porter Gaud and Academic Magnet by combined scores of 89-14. But, the ankle recovered slower than expected.
Meanwhile, Herbst was starting under center and doing well. He completed more than half of his passes and assumed on more and more of the rushing load. It even earned him a few Moultrie News Player of the Week nominations in the process.
Cantey handled the transition masterfully. Theos stayed involved as a game captain every week, and Herbst was praised after games to reporters. The rest of the offense managed the switch well too. Those players were told to get used to Theos running the show only to retract that and go with the guy who was originally passed up.
When Theos was finally healthy enough for game action nearly two months after the injury, Cantey didn’t jump off the Herbst bandwagon. Again, he stuck with the hot hand and kept his confidence in Herbst. Theos became the backup and another offensive weapon among a buffet of talented tailbacks.
In his first game back, Oct. 19 against Woodland, Theos caught a 69-yard touchdown pass from Herbst in the first quarter as a resounding he’s-back statement to opposing teams. Herbst wasn’t the only player throwing the ball that game. Running back DeAngelo Stephenson completed a 33-yard trick play pass. Cantey seemed to tell Herbst you’re still our guy, no matter that Theos is back in pads.
In much colder November weather, Cantey was rewarded with his second state title. Theos and Herbst gained invaluable experience of what it means to come together as a team.
“With all the kids we lost with last year’s team, no one saw this coming,” athletic director Paul Runey said. “Some kids stepped up. Herbst came out of nowhere and just had one heck of a season. That’s what makes this so special.”
The third play
On third down of Bishop England’s opening drive, Theos entered the game. Abbeville saw the insert as a running option. The Bishops knew better.
Herbst received the snap, lateraled the ball back to an in-motion Theos who sold the run fake as a sweep to the right. It was the same play responsible for Stephenson’s only pass of the season.
Bishop England didn’t run that play much, because doing trick plays in a rout – customary for the Bishops this season – is not very sportmanslike.
As Abbeville defenders closed on Theos, he switched grips on the football, lined the laces up on his fingers and found an open Jamie Garrett down field for a touchdown.
“We’ve worked on that all year,” Theos said. “(We) ran a little sweep pass, and it worked perfectly. Just a perfect play call.”
Cantey laughed when told Theos said Abbeville forgot he played quarterback at the start of the season. “That was Week 1 and Week 2, so there’s no way they would know that,” Cantey said.
Abbeville tried to play catch up against a Bishops defense that was best in the bracket. With the Panthers threatening, Herbst finalized by scoring two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
Theos’ pass started things. Herbst was clutch in the latter stages of the game, when his team needed him.
Sounds like a fitting way to end a season that had an identical trend.