In his classic football diary “Instant Replay,” former Green Bay Packer great Jerry Kramer wrote that because he played right guard for the Packers like his legendary coach, Vince Lombardi, did for Fordham, Lombardi was harder on Kramer than any player on the team.
DeAndre Nance finds himself under a similar spotlight at Seventy-First, where he is in his third year starting at quarterback for head coach Duran McLaurin, who played the same position during his high school years.
McLaurin says he’s not harder on Nance, but he’s definitely more critical of his performance since he played the position and now actually coaches it during daily practice sessions.
“I spend a lot of time with the players at that position,” McLaurin said. “They are an extension of the coach. That’s even before you get to the field. The leadership aspect. The communication aspect.”
Last Friday in a showdown with fellow United 8 Conference unbeaten South View, Nance stepped up for one of the best games of his career. He had a hand in six Seventy-First touchdowns, throwing for three and passing for three more, as the Falcons rolled to a 47-14 win.
Nance finished the night with 108 yards rushing, an average of 12 per carry, and 195 yards passing.
The performance was not a surprise to McLaurin.
“He showed me all the things we’ve been seeing in practice,” McLaurin said. “When the things you see on the practice field you start to see in the game, that lets you know the level of comfort, the level of control, that he has.”
Nance feels he’s come a long way from his freshman year when he was just learning the basics of McLaurin’s offense, a process McLaurin took gradually. He saw the potential in Nance early but knew it wasn’t a good idea to overpower him with information.
“There’s no need on dropping a whole playbook on a freshman or sophomore and say, ‘Run it,’” McLaurin said. “They lose confidence.”
McLaurin felt Nance began to find himself toward the end of last season when the Falcons made their run to the 3-A Eastern Regional championship game. This year, Nance finds himself in the same Falcon system, but with more freedom to keep the ball, throw it or hand off.
McLaurin said it’s the next progression in his development. He said games like last Friday could be a routine for Nance.
“He keeps everybody involved, which makes him a more important leader to us this year than he’s ever been,” McLaurin said.
Nance has definitely improved in his time at Seventy-First, but even he feels he’s not done learning the position. He wants to be able to read coverages better than he does now. He’s still trying to measure up to the yardstick he’s been given by McLaurin.
“When you play quarterback here, there’s a standard,” Nance said. “That’s what Coach Mac told all the quarterbacks. If you go out there and perform, show you can play.”
Nance said McLaurin has helped him with a lot of things. Now he wants to get another chance at the state championship that the Falcons came close to earning last season.
“We lost by 1 point,” Nance said, referring to last year’s Eastern final with Northern Nash. “We’ve got to come out and show we can finish.”
But the Falcons have a long way to go before they will get a chance to compete for the state title again. McLaurin knows there are numerous potential bumps in the road in the regular season schedule remaining, starting tonight at Gray’s Creek.
“We are everyone else’s big game,” McLaurin said. “We go in every night like it’s the other team’s Super Bowl and they are trying to knock us off.”
McLaurin noted the Bears enter tonight’s game 3-1 and will be ready for the 4-0 Falcons.
“We need to be ready for them as well,” he said. “We respect everybody, every opponent that we play. And we give everybody the attention they deserve.”
In voting conducted recently by the N.C. Baseball Coaches Association, Guy shared the Region 4 Coach of the Year honors with Coach Bill Kennedy of North Moore High School.
Hall was named the winner of the Region 4 Assistant Coach of the Year award.
Last week’s record was 5-2, running the season total to 22-9, or 70.9%.
We’ve moved the picking story to today because some of this week’s games have been moved to tonight. The scheduling situation is fluid because of the weekend weather, so check with your school to make sure what day and time your school will be playing.
Follow Earl Vaughan Jr. on Twitter: @EarlVaughanJr.