The routes are memorized, complex as they are.
For Fairview senior wide receiver Tommy Wakefield and his teammates trusted to the Knights passing game, the only difference in having another quarterback leading the way this season is the spin on the ball.
It would not be hyperbole to call the Fairview football program a quarterback factory. In the past three years alone, Anders Hill (Columbia), Johnny Feauto (Adams State) and Thomas Creese (Dodge City CC) have found their way onto college teams after one-year stints as FHS starters.
The Knights aren't going to change their ways — a quick strike offense is a happy offense on Tom McCartney's teams — and this year Jake Willemsen takes the reigns of the signal calling.
Willemsen not only brings athleticism to the position, but McCartney said he also brings a unique perspective, having been a starter on defense as well as a receiver in last year's offense.
"Jake's a tremendous athlete — a baseball center fielder who runs well; he started last year on defense; he made plays as a receiver; and he was our backup quarterback so he took valuable practice reps, " McCartney said as he enters his 24th year at the helm. "With all of those things, learning the nuances of safety and (defensive back) play, learning how to attack defenses, there's a lot of positives there.
"He has a great understanding of the game because of those multiple positions."
Willemsen was groomed to be the quarterback as it stood, but the Knights were impressive in 7-on-7 play this summer, winning six of the seven tournaments they played. The lone "loss" was to Eaglecrest in the Denver Broncos 7-on-7 Challenge, and even then it was a late lead coughed up that prevented them from running the table.
Wakefield smiled wide when asked about the success of the summer, and he knows that he is part of a senior-led receiving core that also includes veterans Quinn Sharp, David McWilliams and Connor Twist. The four of them have a combined 242 receptions over the past two seasons.
"The 7-on's were incredible, and we're going to keep the complex concepts we learned in the mix," Wakefield said. "I think Jake is great as a mobile quarterback and he'll be able to extend plays for us."
With a running back (Mariano Kemp) who started on defense and an offensive line that returns all five spots, McCartney said he feels like the Knights return 11 starters on offense. That's a big factor in FHS checking in at No. 10 in the preseason CHSAAnow.com media poll.
Defensively the team will be challenged to compete in the Mount Cameron Conference that includes Columbine, Mullen and ThunderRidge — the Rebels begin the season ranked sixth, the Mustangs third and the Grizzlies were receiving votes, too.
Blessed for three years to have University of Michigan freshman Carlo Kemp frequently ruining opponents' plans, McCartney said there are more than a couple players making their presence known with their actions and their words.
Additionally, Mike Johnson (6-foot-3, 255 pounds) adds a college-sized body to the line as a sophomore, and fellow sophomores Matt Greenwald and Bryce DesJardins have worked their way into starting positions on the corners. Max Ward will be directing a lot of traffic from safety, too.
"Our two senior linebackers, Nick D'Esposito and Cliffy Smith, they'll (lead) in different ways but they are natural leaders, and Ward has been in a lot of battles for us," McCartney said. "(Roland) Moellenberg is another guy that brings a veteran presence. We are asking our defense as a team, can we play at a high level and get better each and every week."
"I think we have a lot of guys who are eager to get out and make plays," said D'Esposito, who registered a pair of sacks and 52 total tackles last year. "We have some young corners and safeties, but they had a good summer of work. We're ready to stop the run ... and we're ready to prove our defense."
FAIRVIEW KNIGHTS AT A GLANCE
COACH: Tom McCartney (24th year, 152-100 record)
LAST YEAR: 7-3 overall, lost to Chaparral in first round of Class 5A playoffs.
RETURNING STARTERS: Nick D'Esposito (Sr., LB, 6-0, 195); Colt Futter (Jr., OL, 5-11, 176); Julian Hansen (Sr., OL, 6-2, 200); David McWilliams (Sr., WR, 5-10, 175); Roland Moellenberg (Sr., DL, 6-3, 215); Paul Scheufele (Jr., OL, 6-1, 213); Quinn Sharp (Sr., WR, 6-2, 165); Koby Soden (Jr., OL/DL, 6-2, 235); Connor Twist (Sr., WR, 5-10, 165); Tommy Wakefield (Sr., WR, 6-1, 190); Max Ward (Sr., DB, 6-3, 195).
OTHERS TO WATCH: Tyler Banks (So., DL, 5-8, 230); Ossie Barton (Jr., DL, 6-1, 190); Ted Chasson (Jr., OL/DL, 6-2, 225); Bryce DesJardins (So., CB, 6-0, 160); Jeff Erickson (Jr., LB, 6-0, 180); Matt Greenwald (So., CB, 6-1, 170); Michael Johnson (So., OL, 6-3, 255); Mariano Kemp (Jr., RB/DL, 5-10, 230), Cliffy Smith (Sr., LB, 6-1, 170); Ethan Villareal (Jr., SS, 6-0, 180); Jake Willemsen (Sr., QB, 6-0, 195).
COLLEGE PROSPECTS: Willemsen, McWilliams, Wakefield, Soden, Kemp, Johnson, Sharp.
MUST-SEE GAME: Oct. 21 vs. Mullen.
STRENGTHS: The returning offensive line, with even more size, should help keep the Knights marching down the field — as should the seniors at the wideout position that have two years of varsity experience under their belts.
WEAKNESSES: There's a little rawness to the defense overall but the depth should keep the starters working hard not wanting to be replaced.
Sept. 1 — HORIZON, 7 p.m.
Sept. 9 — at Boulder, Recht Field, 6 p.m.
Sept. 16 — ROCKY MOUNTAIN, 7 p.m.
Sept. 23 — at Prairie View, 7 p.m.
Sept. 30 — at Arapahoe, Littleton Public Schools Stadium, 7 p.m.
Oct. 6 — COLUMBINE*, 7 p.m.
Oct. 14 — at ThunderRidge*, Shea Stadium, 7 p.m.
Oct. 21 — MULLEN*, 7 p.m.
Oct. 27 — at Northglenn*, Five Star Stadium, 6 p.m.
Nov. 4 — MOUNTAIN RANGE*, 7 p.m.
Note: Home games upper case and at Christian Recht Field at Boulder High School.
*Asterisk denotes 5A Mount Cameron opponents.