Every day in practice, Blake Jacobs waits for his chance.
And every week when game time comes, he knows he’ll be spending most of his time on the sideline.
But when Huntley’s football team visited the unbeaten Cary-Grove Trojans on Saturday, the junior got that shot.
His team down big late in the game, the backup quarterback entered and promptly threw for 73 yards and a touchdown while completing all three of his pass attempts.
“I’m always excited for these games, even though I don’t start,” Jacobs said. “When I went in I felt good and wasn’t nervous at all.”
Jacobs doesn’t remember what exactly drew him to football. Maybe it was because his father played, and they loved to talk about the game. Maybe it was the way people look at someone who can throw a touchdown pass. Either way, it is special.
Jacobs started playing as a second grade running back, a little more stocky than the other kids and able to run through open holes. But soon he realized that he wanted to control the game and have each play run through him.
He watched his favorite team, Ohio State, and admired how quarterbacks like Troy Smith, Terrelle Pryor and Braxton Miller controlled the game.
So Jacobs, a natural athlete who runs the 400 meters in 53 seconds, taught himself how to throw a tight spiral in his yard and practiced the option in order to use his speed to hit holes.
“He can make every throw,” Huntley coach John Hart said. “He has as pure an arm as any kid I have ever had, so he can make all the throws.”
Jacobs is also bright. He’s in honors algebra and he brings those brains to the field.
“Blake is very, very intelligent,” Hart said. “The difference between Blake and [starting quarterback Kam Sallee] is like the difference in the Florida Gators situation.
“The difference between [Tim] Tebow and [Chris] Leak when they won their first national championship. One guy is very cerebral and understands all of the coverages and has the ability to pick it apart and that’s Blake, and the other is athletic with a strong arm, Kameron.”
Jacobs prides himself in his ability to read defenses and explained where each defensive back would set up on each coverage package. His role on game days is to signal the plays in to Sallee from the sidelines and, in doing so, says that he is understanding when to call certain plays based on what the defense is showing.
“It’s nice having him there to do that,” Sallee said. “Sometimes coach speak is hard to understand or too hectic, but Blake does a great job of getting the plays in quickly and accurately. He probably knows the plays better than anyone out here.”
Sallee, a senior, leads all area passers with 16 touchdowns and is one of five who have thrown for more than 1,000 yards. While he is the heart of the Red Raiders’ offense, he also holds the job that Jacobs covets.
“Through hard work Blake has truly come a long way from three to four months ago,” Hart said. “[Kam] has been the heart of our offense, but early on he was in a funk and I told him we are going to open up the quarterback position because Blake had grown so much and it was because of Blake’s immense improvement.
“If Blake wasn’t ready, he wouldn’t have pushed Kameron, and I don’t know where we would be.”
Senior wide receiver Bryce Beschorner, the area’s top receiver and only pass catcher with more than 600 yards (with eight touchdowns), said it succinctly.
“He is 3 for 3 on the year,” Beschorner said. “That’s perfect.”
Much of the work Jacobs and his teammates do to prepare goes unnoticed.
They watch film together, practice side by side, but when the game begins it’s Jacobs on the sideline watching, signaling plays and soaking up information, patiently waiting his turn.
“He is one of those kids who can start for a lot of teams and we are lucky to have him,” Hart said.