Bobcats Ready to Lean on Defense, Sophomore QB as Cedar Park Test Looms
SAN ANGELO, TX-- Despite losing arguably their best quarterback, the show must go on for the Central Bobcats.
“Everybody on our team has to step up,” Davis said. “Hopefully we’ve been giving everything we’ve possibly got, no matter who the quarterback is.”
They’ll do so with a stout defense and sophomore Malachi Brown taking the snaps at quarterback.
“We just think that, at this time, he’s our best option,” Central head coach Brent Davis said of Brown. “He’s a sophomore. He’s young, showed some really good things as a freshman. We’re just looking forward to seeing what he can do.”
In his ten years at Central, Davis admits they haven’t used an underclassman behind center.
With the season-ending knee injury to senior Maverick McIvor, that has forced Central to break from their norm.
It’s not that they discourage the thought of a young signal caller, according to Davis, there just hasn’t been an opportunity to use one with an abundance of upperclassmen such as Braden Hucks, Mickey Scott, Logan O’Brien and Cal Vincent in years past.
“That’s the situation we’re in,” Davis said. “[Malachi] was a heck of a player for us at slot [receiver]. He’s an athlete. He had some moxy about him. [He] understands the game. That’s the guy we felt like gave us the best opportunity to win.”
Moving a slot receiver over to quarterback does not break from Central’s tendency, however. McIvor, prior to taking the reins for Davis’ Bobcats, was a slot receiver while Cal Vincent was directing the offense.
“We feel that anytime you’re on the field, you’re getting better,” Davis added. “[Malachi] understands our offense, he knows what everybody does and understands route running and things like that that we feel like all our quarterbacks need to know. We’ve always done it and feel like it’s a big advantage for us and hopefully it will pay off.”
What caught Davis’ eye was the maturity of the sophomore.
“We feel like he’s a mature kid,” Davis praised of Brown. “He’s a varsity player for us already. He’s done a lot of good things at the slot for us and made some really big plays in the first couple of games and our scrimmage. So, the game’s not too big for him. The speed of the game and all that, he’s used to it by now.”
Davis also said Central’s offense will be “a work in progress” due to the sudden change.
“We’re gonna learn right along with him,” Davis said. “This will be something new for everybody.”
Brown will get to learn the quarterback role in two tough non-district games against Cedar Park and El Paso Pebble Hills. Davis is happy Brown will get these opportunities to develop against quality opponents.
“That’s huge,” Davis said.”It’s fantastic to have a couple more [games] that...matter, but they don’t count toward your playoffs. Having a couple of games he can get in there and see what he can do and understand and go through the process of playing quarterback, his reads and, you know, all the things that a quarterback has to do, then that’s going to be a big deal for us before we’ve gotta go play Weatherford.”
Davis said the Bobcats are going to do “what Malachi’s good at.” For the Bobcats, that means initially using Brown’s dual-threat ability and building on that week to week while still operating their high-powered offense.
“I think you’ve gotta develop your offense based around your athletic talent at quarterback,” Davis said. “Everybody in this business, that I’m aware of, they build their offense around their quarterback and what he’s capable of doing and what he’s good at and what he’s not good at...As he develops, we’re gonna add. We’ve just gotta get him started and hopefully have some success and we’ll go from there.”
The position group which Brown is transitioning from will also likely aid in the sophomore’s development despite losing Brown. Philip Lupton had seven catches for 127 yards and a two touchdowns against Del Rio. Jackson Timme caught 12 passes for 180 yards the week prior against Killeen Shoemaker.
“Well, I mean it’s always great to have guys that catch a ball when you throw it to them,” Davis said. “That’s a big part of what we do. [Malachi] was a backup slot receiver for us and he did contribute quite a bit, you know. So, now we’re losing that by putting him at quarterback. Those other guys will step up and we’ll have some backups that step up and they’ll get more playing time.”
No matter how Brown does, Central will lean on their defense to continue their trend to open the season. Led by linebacker Daylon Green, cornerback Jashon Hall and a tough defensive line, Davis is confident in the defensive unit.
“They’re going to have to play like they’ve been playing,” Davis said. “They’ve been playing fantastic. We’ve given up 10 points in two games. So, we’re real excited about them. We’re going to lean on them probably a little more.”
Green has expectedly stepped up as the defensive leader for Central, leading the team in tackles through the first two games. However, Hall has stepped up to add more threats for the Bobcat defense.
“Jashon’s somebody we’ve been waiting on,” Davis said. “He had a freak injury...before we even started spring in our offseason. He’s finally healthy and back and released. We’re excited about him and he played really good on Friday. We know what we get with him...He’s a great cover corner. He brings a lot of things that we can do now on defense with him at corner that maybe we wouldn’t have done without him there.”
Hall made a big sack against Del Rio on a corner blitz, one of the things not seen often from the Bobcat defense.
The first test of the post-McIvor era will not be an easy one with a road trip to Cedar Park, who have been to three state championship games since 2012 with two titles.
“This is a really good football team,” Davis said of the Timberwolves. “They’re 0-2, but they’ve lost two really close games to two really good football teams. May be one of the best 0-2 teams in the state without a doubt.”
Cedar Park and Central were trying to find a week 3 game after the University Interscholastic League’s realignment in February. Nobody wanted to play either team, according to Davis.
“We knew they were a great program when we scheduled them,” Davis said. “We were both sitting at the realignment and noone wanted to play either one of us. So, we ended up playing each other. I’m glad we did. We need a big challenge and we’re going to get one on Friday.”
Davis expects Cedar Park’s defense to send a lot of pressure, regardless of the Bobcat’s quarterback situation. He also says Cedar Park is big on the offensive and defensive fronts and they run a good amount of man-to-man coverage in the secondary.
Offensively, Davis says the Timberwolves are “a lot like” the Bobcats with a talented quarterback taking snaps in their spread offense.
Ryan Fiala is the anticipated starter. Fiala stepped up last year when Cedar Park lost their original starting quarterback and led Cedar Park to another district championship.
While the immediate goal is always to win, getting better each week is what Davis and his staff have focused on in non-district.
“Like every week, we just wanna get better,” Davis said. “I think we’re a lot better than we were when we went to Del Rio. I think we played pretty well offensively and defensively there. I think from week 1 to week 2 was a huge gain and hopefully we can continue to do that, you know.”
The eagerness to respond to the adversity in front of the Bobcats is almost palpable.
“I’m excited to see how the team reacts,” said senior offensive linemen Gunner Couch. “This will be a test for us for sure, this Cedar Park team. They’re good. They get after it and we just lost our starting quarterback. But we’ve gotta have that ‘next guy up’ mentality. Mal’s gonna get in there and get the job done. Here at Central, we don’t lose. That’s not a thing. So, we’ve gotta go out there and get the job done.”
Central and Cedar Park square off at Gupton Stadium on Friday, Sept. 14, at 7:00 p.m.