By Austin Block
Max Heltzer â11 and Oliver Lowry â10 are friends with similar athletic interests. They play on the baseball and football teams together for most of the year. Both want to play college football. They both play quarterback. They even play with the same, more traditional drop-back style while directing an offense.
There is only one problem: the departure of two year starting quarterback Sean Berman â09 has forced the Wolverines to choose one, and only one, player to be the new starter for the varsity football team.
“Itâs very important, especially for recruitingâ¦junior year is a big year so hopefully I get it this year,” Heltzer said.
Heltzer and Lowry agree that there is no tension or awkwardness lingering around the situation and that having a fellow competitor actually helps them.
“Ollie and I are still good friends,” Heltzer said. “If anything I think [the competition] made us both better because by competing against someone you can push yourself moreâ¦I think it helps both of us become better players.”
“It really is all about the team,” Lowry said. “The main competition is us against the other team.”
Head Coach Vic Eumont and Quarterback Coach Dave Levy said that they havenât sensed any tension between the two players either.
“Thatâs what I was happiest about: I said âLook would it affect anything if you didnât like each other? Would it affect anything if he said âI hope he fails and falls on his face?â No. That doesnât help youâ¦And he shouldnât think that about you,â” Levy said. “Friendly competitors at quarterback happen all the time. You see it in pro football everywhereâ¦ Itâs just the way of competition.”
Eumont has yet to determine a permanent starter. Heltzer, last yearâs starting JV quarterback, was named the temporary starter for the first two games, though the first game was cancelled after the Los Angeles Unified School District made Franklin forfeit due to air quality concerns.
Eumontâs plan is to have Heltzer play two thirds of each of the first two games and to play Lowry for the other third.
However, his plan is subject to change based on what happens in the games. Cameron Komisar â12, a possible third option, is injured but not out of contention.
Lowry was a First Team All-League linebacker last year and was the JV quarterback as a sophomore.
He will continue playing linebacker as he vies for the quarterback spot, and if he gets the starting position, he may still play linebacker, although less often.
He said he will help the team however it needs him and feels that he can still be a team leader playing linebacker.
Lowry said playing quarterback could actually slightly hurt his chances of playing in college because it would reduce the amount of time he plays linebacker, but he said he could still send his stats to schools and explain that he played on both sides of the ball.
He has spoken with his coaches and he said they arenât worried.
Lowry would be willing to give up playing linebacker completely if the team needed him to play quarterback.
Levy said Heltzer has gotten more repetitions at quarterback because Lowry has been needed to play defense.
“Theyâre performing as good as they can right now. Thatâs all you can ever ask,” he said. “They both are very hard-working guys.”
Eumont said that Heltzerâs strength is throwing a football and that Lowry is good at handling a team and a drive.
“Thatâs why heâs in the quarterback hunt still because heâs a great leader,” Eumont said of Lowry.
He also noted that Heltzerâs leadership ability is improving as well.
Levy said the competition is quite close.
“Theyâre very close and theyâre very competitive and Iâm happy with both of them,” Levy said.
Because the team canât afford to sustain more injuries than it already has, the team doesnât scrimmage much and the quarterbacks are unable to practice in those types of situations.
However, they did participate in a passing league in the spring, in which there are only seven players on each team and no linemen.
“The last time I remember calling them off the field together â¦ we played Burbank or Burroughs in a passing league game and I think Max had 31 plays and Oliver had 29 and they were within two percentage points of completions, drops,” Levy said. “But they were so close and I remember going off and saying âGuys, it canât get much closer. Thatâs good work. Weâll check it out in the fall.â”
“It got kind of competitive at one point just because the coach liked to pit them against each other so that they could both do better, but it was all for good and Max is going to do a pretty good job starting out for the team,” tight end Malcolm Caldwell-Meeks â10 said.
“These guys are like Berman [more traditional quarterbacks] so they need to make quicker, faster decisions and just try to get first downs when theyâre running and not get sacked or give up the ball,” Eumont said.
When asked if he thought seniors would be willing to listen to a junior quarterback, Heltzer responded, “I donât think they have a problem. Iâm good friends with those guys. I have been playing with them since I was a freshman.”
Heltzer has prepared for his new job by watching film and said “weâve been running plays out here all day so that helps a lot.”
“I probably need to work on my running a little bitâ¦be a little more agile,” he said.
Heltzer said that Berman has given him advice. “I listen to everything he saysâ¦I text him if I need any help,” he said.
Eumont said he doesnât have to make a final decision until the teamâs first league game against St. Bernard at St. Bernard High School on Oct. 16.
The teamâs four league games will be the most important contests of the season.
Eumont also said the fact that Lowry is a senior and Heltzer is a junior wonât affect his decision unless they are otherwise equal.
“Itâs a little bit different in the fact that Oliver has already got a starting position,” he said.
In the intersquad scrimmage Friday, Lowry threw for two touchdowns while leading the black team to a 21-14 victory over the white team, which was quarterbacked by Heltzer.
Heltzer threw for a touchdown pass as well, but was intercepted. Eumont thinks the continued strong play by Lowry has helped Heltzerâs development as a quarterback.
“The fact that Oliver has put pressure on Max has made Max a better quarterback and Oliver is pushing but heâs also he doesnât loaf on defense,” Eumont said.
“I think heâd like to play quarterback but I donât think heâll be too mad at me,” Heltzer said.
Eumont also said that the teamâs other offensive players can be just as important as the quarterback: “We have a lot of skilled guys that the quarterback doesnât have to be the main guy.”
“There is no controversy right now because right now Lowryâs the starting linebacker and Heltzerâs the starting quarterback,” Eumont said.
“Weâll just have to see how they play out the competition,” Levy said. “Itâs a good problem.”