Refugio quarterback having to learn on the fly
Sept. 29, 2011 at 4:29 a.m.
Updated Sept. 30, 2011 at 4:30 a.m.
REFUGIO - Travis Quintanilla grew up watching Refugio play football so he had a pretty good idea of what to expect as the quarterback.
He got an up-close view last season as a freshman.
"You have to have a tough skin to play quarterback here and for Coach Herring," Quintanilla said. "He always told me when I was in seventh and eighth grade to have a tough skin because he was going to rip my butt."
Quintanilla has endured his share of criticism since taking over as the starter as a sophomore.
But he's also received praise for leading Refugio (4-0, 1-0) to the No. 1 ranking in the state poll heading into Friday night's District 16-2A, Division I game against Riviera (4-0, 1-0) at Jack Sportsman Bobcat Stadium.
Quintanilla has passed for 910 yards and 12 touchdowns this season without throwing an interception.
"It's one thing to be the starting quarterback anywhere as a sophomore, but to be the starting quarterback of the No. 1 team in the state in a pressure-packed place like Refugio, where football is king, it's hard dude," said Refugio coach Jason Herring. "What I've tried to prepare Travis for is you're fixing to get thrown to the wolves and you're going to be expected to handle it like an 18-year-old senior, and you're only a 15-year-old pup."
Herring was convinced Quintanilla had the physical tools to run Refugio's spread offense.
"I knew when I first coached him in seventh grade that he had a chance to be special," Herring said. "He has a release. I always tell him he's like Sam Bradford - it's so lightning quick. Where most quarterbacks have a (Tim) Tebow delivery, Travis' release is so quick that he only needs a small window. So, the better teams you play, you should be able to throw the ball as effectively as we are now."
Herring would have preferred to let Quintanilla play on the junior varsity last season, but felt he needed him on the varsity.
"It was just the way things fell that he was my best backup last year, and I had to have him as a freshman," Herring said. "We tried to make the best of a non-perfect situation and play him as much as he could."
Refugio's dominance of its district opponents allowed Quintanilla to take a number of snaps, which has benefited him this season.
"It was real hard coming out of seventh and eighth grade," Quintanilla said. "We just had about five plays, 10 plays real easy and coming to varsity and having everything else. It was all right sitting on the bench and playing the other half that I used to play gave me more experience."
Quintanilla admits he had "bubble guts everywhere" before Refugio's season-opening 26-7 win over Rice Consolidated.
But he's settled in completing passes to 10 different receivers, including 21 to Lynx Hawthorne for 501 yards and eight touchdowns.
"I'd like to work on more of my three-step drop and getting my reads and getting with Lynx because he's good," Quintanilla said. "We have good threats at the wide receivers and our O-line is pretty good this year."
Herring has been most impressed by Quintanilla's maturity in dealing with the expectations and responsibility of being the starting quarterback.
"I told him 'Travis, you know the hardest position to play for coach Herring is the starting quarterback because you dictate everything,'" Herring said. "He's been great about it. As good as he's playing, he's handled that part as a champ. He wants to be a sophomore kid, but he understands that I need him to be a man probably a year early."
Quintanilla realizes part of the process is dealing with Herring's critiques when he comes to the sideline.
"I just take it how it is and be a team leader and just take it because I have to learn from my mistakes," Quintanilla said. "He's telling me the right things by chewing me out so I can get better."
As Quintanilla improves, Refugio's chances of playing into December get better.
"The bottom line is we've got a team capable of doing whatever they decide and put their minds to," Herring said. "It just so happens that he's the best one, and he won the job but, yet, he's a pup, so that's a lot of pressure.
"There's times when he's come in here with his head hung. I've told him you've got to please two people. You need to please yourself and you need to please me. You got to go out and give it everything you got, do the very best you can and try to do everything I ask you, and the rest of it so be it."