LONGMONT — Oakley Dehning didn't have to prove anything to anyone at Longmont other than himself.
The Trojans freshman quarterback had done the work behind the scenes to earn his spot on Doug Johnson's team and when the time came, he knew he would be up to the challenge.
That time came three weeks ago when starter David Speidel separated his shoulder against Windsor. Dehning stepped in, had a hard time getting going at first — throwing two interceptions — before making his mark with a 45 yard scoring strike to Eli Sullivan on the final play of the game that ultimately set up an 8-7 victory over the Wizards.
With Speidel still on the mend — he said he was at about 80 percent after Saturday's game against Greeley West — Dehning has filled in admirably, keeping the second-ranked Trojans unbeaten, and in the process earned the respect of his teammates, coaches and opponents.
"He has been terrific and we even talked on the sideline that he will have a role for the playoffs. He can play halfback for us, he can play quarterback and he stepped in there and the moment was not to big for him," Johnson said. "He made the huge pass against Windsor, managed the game well two weeks ago (against Adams City) and then against Greeley West, when we really needed him, he really stepped up with his legs more than his arm, but made some crucial passes, too."
Johnson knew he had something in Dehning very early this summer at his first passing camp and still has to take a step back and realize that his backup is still a freshman.
"But he also has to remind himself that he is on a 4A varsity football team and he wants that and he accepted it," said Johnson, who automatically rewards his No. 2 quarterback a letter whether they ever get into a game or not.
On Saturday against Greeley West, the Trojans were without several key starters, including starting running back Conlan Berger and an offensive lineman. The majority of the work fell on Dehning's shoulders and he didn't disappoint.
Fitting right in to Longmont's run-happy power football game, Dehning — who will lead the Trojans into their final regular season game on Thursday night in Loveland against Thompson Valley — carried the ball 17 times for more than 100 yards and scored twice.
"There was definitely a learning curve and I am still learning a lot in every single game," said Dehning, who has two touchdown passes and three interceptions in his three games. "It's amazing right now. I will remember these games for the rest of my life. Every single play is a highlight. I love even handing the ball off. It is so exciting."
Said Sullivan: "Oakley has been real impressive. He makes a few mistakes here and there, but that comes with a freshman, but he makes up for it on the running end and throwing end. He'll stick his nose into the pile and go get us some yards and that is really impressive. I am really proud of him."