Quarterbacks compete for starting spot

By Austin Block

Max Heltzer ’11 and Oliver Lowry ’10 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 ’09 has forced the Wolverines to choose one, and only one, player to be the new starter for the varsity football team.

“It’s very important, especially for recruiting…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 more…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 haven’t sensed any tension between the two players either.

“That’s what I was happiest about: I said ‘Look would it affect anything if you didn’t like each other? Would it affect anything if he said ‘I hope he fails and falls on his face?’ No. That doesn’t help you…And he shouldn’t think that about you,’” Levy said. “Friendly competitors at quarterback happen all the time. You see it in pro football everywhere… It’s just the way of competition.”

Eumont has yet to determine a permanent starter. Heltzer, last year’s 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.

Eumont’s 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 ’12, 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 aren’t 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.

“They’re performing as good as they can right now. That’s all you can ever ask,” he said. “They both are very hard-working guys.”

Eumont said that Heltzer’s strength is throwing a football and that Lowry is good at handling a team and a drive.

“That’s why he’s in the quarterback hunt still because he’s a great leader,” Eumont said of Lowry.

He also noted that Heltzer’s leadership ability is improving as well.

Levy said the competition is quite close.

“They’re very close and they’re very competitive and I’m happy with both of them,” Levy said.

Because the team can’t afford to sustain more injuries than it already has, the team doesn’t 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 … 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 ‘Guys, it can’t get much closer. That’s good work. We’ll check it out in the fall.’”

“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 ’10 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 they’re 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 don’t think they have a problem. I’m 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 “we’ve been running plays out here all day so that helps a lot.”

“I probably need to work on my running a little bit…be a little more agile,” he said.

Heltzer said that Berman has given him advice. “I listen to everything he says…I text him if I need any help,” he said.

Eumont said he doesn’t have to make a final decision until the team’s first league game against St. Bernard at St. Bernard High School on Oct. 16.

The team’s 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 won’t affect his decision unless they are otherwise equal.

“It’s 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 Heltzer’s development as a quarterback.

“The fact that Oliver has put pressure on Max has made Max a better quarterback and Oliver is pushing but he’s also he doesn’t loaf on defense,” Eumont said.

“I think he’d like to play quarterback but I don’t think he’ll be too mad at me,” Heltzer said.

Eumont also said that the team’s other offensive players can be just as important as the quarterback: “We have a lot of skilled guys that the quarterback doesn’t have to be the main guy.”

“There is no controversy right now because right now Lowry’s the starting linebacker and Heltzer’s the starting quarterback,” Eumont said.

“We’ll just have to see how they play out the competition,” Levy said. “It’s a good problem.”