Edgewood Academy vs Southern Academy

Jake Arthur/ Wetumpka Herald Edgewood Academy quarterback Austin Champion (12) looks for an eligible receiver during an AHSAA football game between the Edgewood Academy Wildcats and the Southern Academy Cougars at Edgewood Academy in Elmore, Ala on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021. Edgewood won the game 32-13.

Edgewood Academy quarterback Austin Champion has been on quite the tear to start the 2021 high school football season.

Champion, a junior, has started each of Edgewood’s games this year and has helped lead the Wildcats to the county’s only 2-0 start to the season. In the process, he has compiled an impressive stat line.

In two games, Champion is 23 of 36 passing for 539 yards, eight touchdowns and no interceptions. In last week’s game, a 43-13 win over Hooper Academy, Champion threw for 305 yards and five touchdowns - all in the first half.

“He just gets football,” head coach Chad Michael said of Champion. “He is such a smart kid. He understands, a lot of the time before the ball is even snapped, where he is going with the ball just based on how the defense is lined up. The ability he has to make those quick decisions is what makes him so successful.”

Edgewood fans got a glimpse of Champion’s skill last season, when the then-sophomore started two games due to an injury to the starting quarterback.

In those two games, Champion led Edgewood to a 2-0 record and a 40-36 win over eventual state champion, Chambers Academy. It was during that two-game stretch that Michael, along with many other Wildcat faithful, knew Champion would be the quarterback of the future.

But what was it exactly that Michael saw from Champion that allowed him to put all his trust into him?

His demeanor.

“He just had such a good calmness about him,” Michael said. “Even just jumping into the starting role, the situation wasn’t too big for him and he’s since proved that there isn’t anything too big for him. He’s just always so even-keeled and never gets into panic mode.”

Now, Michael has seen that demeanor continue to shine through Champion’s personality, but he has really seen his leadership and intelligence rise to the forefront of Champion’s ability at quarterback.

Michael likes to keep his playbook simple, especially in the early parts of the season. But that isn’t the case when it comes to Champion. He gets the whole thing, including all the complexities that come with it.

He doesn’t mind, and he knows the playbook front and back. Michael knows he does, and Michael trusts him so much that he gives him full reign of play calling duties and audibles whenever Champion feels it necessary.

Michael even said that if he falls sick to COVID at any point this season, he would be willing to just let Champion run the offense for the night.

Champion feels confident he could do that if it was needed, but he’d rather leave it to the professionals.

“I feel like I could do it because I know the offense so well, but I definitely like it a lot more with him out there,” Champion said. “I would say he’s definitely better than I am at it, but I think I could manage it a little bit if I had to. Hopefully I don’t have to.”

Champion doesn’t just shine in the mental aspect of being a quarterback though. He’s also pretty good at the physical parts of it. At 6-foot-1, Champion can make all the throws necessary, including the deep ball, and that’s shown through two games this year.

The Wildcats are averaging 23.4 yards per completion and are averaging a touchdown pass every three completions. That is because of Champion’s ability to hit his receivers in stride, no matter what route they’re running on the field.

“He really can make every throw on the field,” Michael said. “Obviously he has a really great deep ball, but he can also make every slant throw, all the check downs, and really just every throw on the field. Plus, he’s athletic enough that he can hurt you with his feet if he needs to.”

While he is the leader of the offense, Champion was quick to give the credit to his teammates, especially his receivers. That’s in good measure, as his receivers have done a great job of getting open in the first two games.

In the season opener, receiver Trevor Rodie had five catches for 155 yards and three touchdowns. All three touchdowns came on plays of 33 yards or longer.

In last week’s win, the production was more spread out, with Rodie, JT Brazell and JB Collier all catching touchdown passes. Rodie continued his tear and had five catches for 129 yards and two touchdowns.

“I just kind of manage the game and make as many plays as I can,” Champion said. “I want to get the ball in the other guy’s hands and let them do what they can do. Our receivers are doing a great job of running their routes. I have such a great connection with all our receivers and I’m friends with all of them. That chemistry helps a whole lot out there on the field.”

Champion and the Wildcats will look to try and continue their hot streak this Friday night at Banks Academy to open AISA-AA, Region 1 play. Banks Academy is 2-0 this season and is coming off a 54-0 win over Cornerstone Christian last week.