Welcome to the Jungle: Third string player in spotlight

Senior quarterback Zach Williams doesn’t have the time.

Time to be nervous. Time to be upset. Time to be frustrated.

In fact, the only things he has time for are school and football.

But the third-string quarterback said he’s not consumed by all the critics and outsiders. He’s only determined to become a better player since being thrown into the starting position.

“The game is a lot faster on varsity,” Williams said. “I’m working more and more everyday to win games for this team and be the player I want to be.”

The varsity football team’s record stands at 3-3 overall, 2-3 in district play. The team now relies on Williams to lead it to a winning season, after a 3-7 result from last year gave it their first losing record since 2007. Williams has replaced both senior quarterbacks Cole Barbe and Dylan Pugliese due to season-ending injuries.

“(When Barbe got injured), the team wasn’t happy about it,” head coach Greg McCaig said. “You don’t want one of those players who has worked so hard for senior year, and now it’s in jeopardy. But Zach (Williams) hung in there well.”
The team started the season hoping to redeem themselves. Coaches put Pugliese, a varsity veteran, as the starting quarterback. However, Pugliese tore his anterior cruciate ligament before the season began, like former running back Jermichael Selders did as a senior two years ago.
“We were upset when we lost Dylan, but we knew Cole had experience last year on varsity, so he could back us up,” senior offensive lineman Nick Russell said.

Barbe started the season, but only played until he broke his collarbone in the first quarter against the Cy Falls Golden Eagles. The team turned to Williams.

“I wasn’t nervous just more concerned about (Barbe),” Williams said. “I was shocked because you never are expecting something like that.”

Replacing Barbe wasn’t an easy task since Cy Falls held the lead by 10. The defense stepped up and held Cy Falls to the lowest amount of points they’ve scored this season. Ultimately though, Cy Creek lost 27-9.

“The defense got fired up,” senior defensive lineman Isaac Johnson said. “We had more confidence and we showed it, especially in the third quarter. But we ended up losing that game.”

The team had a chance at redemption against Cy Springs, and rose to the challenge to win 52-37. Williams said that game felt much different for him.

“I had been practicing with the starters and that helped,” he said. “I watched more film, and had a lot more reps in practice. That game was easier than the Cy Falls game. We just stayed relaxed and kept our heads up.”

Cy Creek went into Jersey Village’s homecoming game with confidence, after the lopsided win against Cy Springs gave them a solid 3-1 record. Jersey Village, though, proved the upper hand by scoring the first touchdown of the game and holding the lead throughout.

“I thought everybody stepped up and made plays,” McCaig said. “I thought early on we tried to do too much, like trying to make highlight film on every tackle when we need to do the basics.”

Johnson said now that Williams has the team behind him, they’re turning to focus on future games, even playoffs. And while the team continues to improve, Barbe said, he continue to keep his complete confidence in Williams.

“He’s going to go in there and do his job,” he said. “He has great athletes around him and he is a great athlete. I definitely think he can keep rolling.”
Williams said that he knows people watch him, but he said he can only continue to train to make himself better.
“It’s always great to be on the field,” Williams said. “I want to play, but I didn’t want to get my chance to play because of a situation like this. I want to play by beating Dylan and Cole in competition.”

He suddenly becomes silent, thinking of his next words.

“Am I better than them?” he said. “That’s for McCaig to decide.”

Williams looks outward to the practice fields, next to the portables, where he stands. He’s relaxed and collected. Then he laughs, leans in and says: “Besides, I’m the gunslinger.”