Just because two football players are friends doesn’t mean that they can’t be competitors, and just because they are competitors doesn’t mean that they can’t be friends.
That’s the nature of the game. That’s the situation Kenny Simco and Sharron Trent find themselves in. The Riverhead Blue Waves have an old-fashioned quarterback controversy, featuring both of them.
Trent said he and Simco are good friends, but when they are on the practice field, well, it’s business.
One might suspect that Simco, a senior who backed up Cody Smith for most of last season, has the advantage in terms of experience. He played in eight games and started in four of them, including two playoff games. His record as a starter is 4-0.
With Smith having moved on, the natural progression would be for Simco to be the heir apparent for the starting job. Except for one thing: Trent is standing in his way.
Trent, the starting quarterback for Riverhead’s 7-1 junior varsity team last year, has made things interesting during preseason training camp. The junior has done well to force himself into the discussion.
“This is one of the few years when we actually had a quarterback controversy coming in,” Blue Waves coach Leif Shay said. “Sharron is really pushing for time.”
He added: “The pressure’s kind of on Kenny because if they’re equal, you always go with the younger guy and have him for two years, so Kenny’s going to have to prove himself above and beyond, better, to get on the field.”
The two players have drastically different styles. While the 5-foot-11, 165-pound Simco is a traditional pocket passer, the 5-9, 176-pound Trent, a converted running back, is more mobile and prefers to be moving while looking for open receivers. Both players can zip the ball.
Trent said that as a younger player he looked up to Simco. “He taught me a lot,” he said.
Asked about the quarterback competition after Thursday morning’s practice, Simco said: “We’re handling it pretty well. We’re not letting it affect us. We’re just playing our game.”
Although Riverhead’s middle school and junior varsity teams run similar offenses, the varsity team’s no-huddle, multiple-zone offense, which runs a variety of formations, is more complex. Simco already has a year of it under his belt; Trent doesn’t.
Playing quarterback for the Blue Waves isn’t the simplest job.
“You got to be a bit of a runner, a bit of a passer,” Shay said. “You definitely got to be a cerebral player, and you got to have some toughness to you.”
Simco said he has worked on building his arm strength during the off-season, but the biggest thing he has learned is how to slow the game down in his mind so he doesn’t rush things.
“I just got to do my thing on the field and, hopefully, you know, I outperform,” Simco said. “That’s all I got to do.”
Simco completed 39 of 55 passes last season for 439 yards and 5 touchdowns. He did not throw an interception.
Shay said Simco throws the long ball well and has a nice touch on his passes.
“He’s a good quarterback,” Shay said. “The kid’s a winner. We’re confident in his abilities, but I tell you what, Sharron’s an athletic, intriguing kid, too.”
Trent had been a running back in youth football and up until last year when he was moved to quarterback. Now he is making another adjustment, from junior varsity quarterback to varsity quarterback. “It’s a lot to take in at once,” he said.
Trent, athletic and strong, has learned the value of good footwork, and is working on his field vision and releasing passes quickly. Shay said Trent did a “great job” last season.
“He wasn’t trained as a quarterback,” Shay said. “He came to us as a running back, and he’s actually made the transformation to quarterback, which is a tough thing to do, so you got to give that kid a ton of credit. He just wants to get on the field and play. I saw how hard he was working in the off-season. I saw that hunger in his eyes, so that kind of led me to believe that he was going to push for some [playing] time, and he’s done that.”
This is a competition that will be decided in drills, scrimmages and practices. Shay said he expects to have a decision made following a six-team scrimmage the Blue Waves will host a week from Saturday.
Regardless of who wins the starting job, both players indicated their friendship will remain.
“They’re friends, first and foremost,” Shay said. “They’re trying to help each other get better. They understand that the team comes before anybody’s individual efforts. I think competition is good. Competition brings out the best in everybody.”