Peach County and Northside have a pair of running quarterbacks that have helped each team reach the state championship games.
For the Peach County Trojans, quarterback Jaydon Gibson has turned out to be a pleasant surprise.
The Trojans made the state final a year ago with quarterback Antonio Gilbert. He led Peach County to a 13-2 record and a region championship in his final year of high school.
Head coach Chad Campbell was unsure how he was going to replace Gilbert’s production. Gilbert finished with 3,193 yards and 23 touchdowns through the air, and was effective on the ground in short-yardage situations. He scored 11 touchdowns on the ground and amassed 259 yards.
“I think Antonio had an outstanding year last year,” Campbell said. “We lost some really really good players last year. Our quarterback was one of those guys. A lot of people had some hesitation playing Jaydon at quarterback this year.”
The hesitation was in part because Gibson played wide receiver a season ago. He served as the backup quarterback as well but only threw 24 passes in that role. Gibson is completing over 70 percent of his passes, nearly 2,200 yards passing and 28 total touchdowns. The composure he has shown after being “thrown into the fire” has been the impressive part, Campbell said.
The ability of Gibson to run and extend plays with his legs adds a wrinkle to the offense. This has helped get the team back to the state title game, Campbell said.
“He’s got a lot of wiggle in him,” he said. “I am proud of what he has done. Nobody thought we could get as far as we’ve got with the talent we lost year.”
The Northside Eagles came into the season with a tough schedule and hoped senior Jadin Daniels could grow at the quarterback position. His junior year ended in a playoff loss to Tucker where he and the Eagles mounted very little offense.
Part of the struggle for Daniels stemmed from a lack of confidence in his own abilities, Northside head coach Kevin Kinsler said.
“He has always had the athletic ability, throwing the ball and running the ball. He just didn’t quite have the confidence to go along with it,” Kinsler said. “That always baffled me because he had so much ability.”
Northside began to simplify things for Daniels on offense. This allowed him to grow into the position and gain confidence in “baby steps”, Kinsler said.
“The more success he had, the more confidence he got,” he said. “He just took off. I couldn’t be happier for him. He puts a lot of pressure on defenses.”
Daniels is another in a long line of successful Northside quarterbacks. Former Clemson standout Chansi Stuckey and current Georgia Tech star Tobias Oliver each got their start at Northside. Oliver led the team to its last state title in 2014. During his time with the Eagles he also took time to help the younger players on the team, including Daniels.
“When Tobias was a senior he used to take Jadin under his wing quite a bit when Jadin was a youngster,” Kinsler said. “It is great to have that passing it down like that.”
However, Kinsler walks a thin line when it comes to Daniels and the previous quarterbacks like Oliver.
“The last thing I wanted to do was to try and make him Tobias Oliver or think that I was comparing the two,” he said. “(I told him) you are who you are. That is what you need to worry about and being the best you that you can be.”
Northside will need Daniels to have a good game in order to pull of the win against Lee County in state title game. Regardless of the outcome, Kinsler says he is happy for his senior quarterback to have the opportunity.
“He is a young man that I am really happy to see having this success, “he said. “He has worked hard and he deserves it. He has really blossomed.”