L ike the standout athlete in any sport who draws the spotlight, much of the hard work for a quarterback is done when no one is looking.
For years, Silver Creek's Austin Apodaca fired passes into an empty net when no receivers were available, and Longmont's Forrest Wetterstrom defied his first name by spending downtime knocking down trees ... in a way.
"I like to think that the more I throw the better I get," said Wetterstrom, still a junior. "If there's nobody around, I'll go to the park and visualize plays, run through reads and throw to the trees. I'll say, 'The corner is backing up so I'll throw to this guy,' so I'll throw to where the receiver should be, except it's a tree."
Asked if he's been a bit hard on the area foliage, he laughs.
"They could use some grooming."
However they got there, Wetterstrom and Apodaca have shown that they are not only the two best quarterbacks who currently call Everly-Montgomery Field home, they are also among the best across the state.
First, look at the statistics.
Wetterstrom has the Trojans sitting at 5-0 and ranked No. 3 in Class 4A. He has completed 70 percent of his passes and thrown 11 touchdowns compared to a single interception. Better, he is a dual threat who has compiled 246 yards and four touchdowns rushing, averaging 4 yards per carry (and remember, sack yards are included).
Silver Creek is ranked No. 5 in 3A, and Apodaca has blown up for 1,008 passing yards (252 yards per game and currently third-best in the state no matter the classification) with a 14-3 touchdown-to-pick ratio in four games. He has completed 71 percent of his pass attempts while throwing four touchdowns in three of those four games.
It's impressive that he is near pace to break into the top 10 for single-season passing yards in state history.
Even more impressive, both quarterbacks have spent about a third of the season on the sideline while their teams have dominated opponents.
Still, a lot of hours and hard work were put in when nobody else is around.
"It's one of those things, even growing up I just wanted to throw the ball," said Apodaca, who has far exceeded the high expectations set when he entered the season after verbally committing to Washington State. "If you grow up wanting to be a quarterback you think about throwing that long 70-yard touchdown, but once you get into it you know it's always a work in progress."
That's where those lonely days throwing to a net or even a tree become so important. All the hard work is paying off in 2011, so far.
Even better, the local fans get to see the fireworks up close. Attend a game of one of these guys and you'll see plays like the following:
Apodaca sits in the shotgun when the snap comes, he looks down field but feels pressure quickly. A blitz is coming -- an undeniable one -- and he turns Elway-style against the grain only to find a defensive lineman in his face and hanging around his shoulders and legs.
Another would-be tackler moves in, and another. The referee feels like he should blow his whistle under the pile of pads and jerseys, but suddenly there is Apodaca, springing out like a snake and slithering to the sideline.
He sees a receiver that no one else sees and fires downfield for big yards and a first down.
"The receivers and I are always on the same page, and that's what makes some of those plays look so good," he said. "If we had guys who were clueless out there things would look a lot worse, so the credit has to go to my teammates."
While Apodaca makes any throw look easy -- especially the deep shot down the sideline -- his local counterpart is equally potent whether it is run or pass.
Wetterstrom also is capable of the jaw-dropping play, like the time against Standley Lake when he rolled left only to find everyone covered before letting loose to the left and hitting DJ Fowler for a 49-yard score. And when the passing game is off, Wetterstrom can make some of it up on his own.
"I trust my linemen, and we are confident on every play," he said. "Being a leader is on your resume if you want to be a quarterback. You're the only one talking in the huddle and all eyes are on you."
It helps that the coaches trust their quarterbacks as well. It's a given that Silver Creek's Mike Apodaca, Austin's dad, believes that his guy will make the right call or pass. The same goes for Wetterstrom when Longmont offensive coordinator Mike Drake is looking for the perfect play.
"Given time in the pocket, he can go through four reads pretty easily," Drake said. "Ideally you want that guy to put the ball in the right spot on time in the rhythm of the offense, and Forrest is certainly doing those things. There is no part of the playbook we stay away from with him."
Brady Delander can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.