Prep football | New quarterbacks at Manatee and Palmetto learning on the fly

First-year QBs at Manatee, Palmetto thriving after early struggles

jlembo@bradenton.comOctober 11, 2013 

BRADENTON -- Rather than rubbing a lucky rabbit's foot or getting sick on the sideline, Josh Meyer has a surefire way of settling his nerves on a Friday night.

"Usually when I get hit, I start feeling better," said Meyer, Manatee's junior quarterback. "I don't know what it is. I think after I get hit, then I know my competition."

When it comes to playing quarterback, growing pains are just part of the package.

Just ask Meyer.

Or Palmetto's Jack Allison.

Each has had his share of magnificence and missteps on the way to Friday night's game at Harllee Stadium in Palmetto, where the Hurricanes (6-0) take on the Tigers (3-2).

"It's his first year," said Allison, a sophomore who has helped steer Palmetto to three straight wins, "so we're kind of in the same boat."

Neither has been immune to early mistakes. During Manatee's season opener in Maryland against Baltimore's Gilman Charter School, Meyer fumbled inside Gilman's 5-yard line on the Hurricanes' first drive of the season, and he threw consecutive interceptions two weeks later against Washington, D.C.'s Friendship Collegiate Academy.

Allison, meanwhile, threw four interceptions and one touchdown during the Tigers' 0-2 start.

Moments like that may be tough to swallow, but they come with the territory when breaking in a new player to such an integral and high-profile position. The trade-off, however, is that each guy learns and moves forward, which is something Meyer (682 passing yards, 397 rushing yards and 11 total touchdowns) and Allison (534 passing yards, five touchdowns) have done.

Allison's big breakthrough may have come two weeks ago, when he helped Palmetto erase a 31-0 deficit. He hit

Brian Waiters with a game-winning 16-yard touchdown strike with a little more than five minutes remaining.

"To march us down on a two-minute drive right before the half, and to do what he did in the second half and make some of the throws he made, clutch, third-down throws," said coach Dave Marino, "shows how much he's grown and how much he's matured."

The Tigers also got five rushing touchdowns that night from running back Josh Hicks, proof that Allison doesn't have to do it alone.

Meyer, too has tools aplenty at his disposal for a Manatee team averaging close to 38 points per game, including an experienced and athletic offensive line, a pair of stellar running backs in Trevon Walters and Johnnie Lang, and receivers such as Kelvin McKnight (area-high 30 catches), Marquel Hines and Brodrick Yancy.

"It's awesome having playmakers, especially the O-line -- they're huge," Meyer said. "They block everybody I need. I have time in the pocket. I can watch a movie in the pocket; it's crazy. They're just really good and I have really good skill players, and it's really awesome. I'm lucky."

Manatee coach Joe Kinnan agreed.

"We have a great supporting cast. So that helps," Kinnan said. "He doesn't have to win the game; we just don't need him to lose the game.

"He takes two steps forward, and then sometimes he'll take a step back. We need to quit taking any steps back. (But) he's a tough kid. You have to be mentally and physically tough to play this game; it's a very tough game. And we expect a lot out of our quarterbacks."

While Meyer was being groomed to replace Cord Sandberg, one of the best ever to play the position in Manatee County, Allison won his spot after beating out the incumbent, Chris Tuten, during the spring and summer.

Part of the reason, Marino said, was because of Allison's potential as well as his current skill set.

"Some of the recruiting services and college coaches that came around in the spring, they couldn't believe he was a freshman, or a rising sophomore," Marino said. "The accuracy and the intangibles, keeping your eyes downfield when you're eluding the rush -- that's huge, that's that 'it' factor. ... He's got that, he could do that.

"All upside, what he can accomplish, he's one of the best ones I've probably ever been around."

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