With the season looming in just seven short weeks, Holtville quarterbacks Drake Baker and Braxton Buck are still battling it out for the starting job.
The Bulldogs participated in their first 7-on-7 camp Friday at Alabama Christian, and it was a good opportunity for the coaching staff to see both in action against outside competition for the first time since the end of the 2018 season.
“We did some good things today,” Holtville coach Jason Franklin said. “We have seen progress and we’ve really only been doing this for about a week. We have a way to go but if we can figure out some things and be more consistent, I think we should be good. I like this bunch.”
Both quarterbacks got plenty of opportunities during the camp, evenly splitting reps throughout the day. Baker, who missed seven games last season due to an injury to his throwing elbow, threw for 2,605 yards in his sophomore season and is looking to regain the role as the team’s starting signal caller during his senior year.
Buck, who stepped in during Baker’s injury, had some success of his own last season, throwing 26 touchdowns and averaging 168.5 yards through the air per game. With both players showing progress during the offseason, Franklin said the competition has helped pushed them to develop their games.
“They have to drive each other,” Franklin said. “They have to coach each other up and be the other one’s biggest supporter. That’s the biggest thing to me. Both of them are very talented kids. They should push each other and it should be a competition.”
Both players echoed that sentiment and said the competition has driven them to be better players. Baker, who is a 3-star quarterback recruit, said he has been happy to help in Buck’s development while also pushing himself to be a better quarterback and leader.
“I know it helps me a lot and I think it helps him,” Buck said. “Where I was last year, it’s not close to where I am this year and the competition with him being a very good quarterback motivates me.”
Buck said he knows they both want to play but they want each other to do the best they can so whoever starts will not affect their attitudes. Both players have been getting even reps since spring practice and both players are seeing only positive effects from the situation.
“I’m just trying to get ready for the year,” Baker said. “We’re both getting reps in right now so it helps me and him in practice and it just motivates us.”
While 7-on-7 camps are never a direct correlation of a team’s success in the regular season, the focus is on the passing game. Franklin said the camps help the quarterbacks get their timing down and keeps their arms in shape with the season on the horizon.
“In the camps, it helps us get prepared for the season,” Buck said. “We can get our passing down and we can go against other players instead of just our own players in practice.”
Buck said the biggest key to the camp was getting into a rhythm with the rest of the skill positions on offense. Holtville will be relying on a lot of new faces as factors in its offense and both quarterbacks are ready to do their part in filling the holes.
“We are learning all of the plays,” Baker said. “We’re getting young guys in to learn the offense and we get to see what our weaknesses are. We just want to see what we’ve got for the season.”
Holtville opens its season Aug. 30 with a home game against Central Coosa. While both quarterbacks are expected to play in the game, Franklin said he may not have a decision on who will step in as the official starter until kickoff.
“We don’t have to have a decision made until Aug. 30 at 7 p.m. so we’re not putting a time frame on that,” Franklin said. “I don’t think there’s a quarterback controversy as much as people are saying in the community. Both of them are going to play and they’re both capable so we’re not really worried about that.”
As for the other players on Holtville, their focus is not on who wins the starting quarterback job. They fully expect both players to be at their best whether starting or not because that is what is expected of everyone on the team.
“We don’t really talk that much about it,” Buck said. “The teammates are down for everyone to play their best. We all just want to win this season.”