Charlie Hall has two quarterbacks and he's not afraid to use them.
The Ashland High head football coach delivered that message loud and clear in a pre-practice interview Thursday as the Grizzlies were set to make final preparations for tonight's Midwestern League clash with No. 8 Springfield.
Kickoff is 7 p.m. at Springfield High School.
Where/When: 7 p.m. tonight at Springfield High School.
QB Combo: Danial White and Connor Kaegi combined to throw for 300 yards in last Friday's win over Churchill, Ashland's first 300-yard passing game since famed coach Jim Nagel stepped down in 2002.
Junior Danial White has been Ashland's starting quarterback since Week 1 of his sophomore season — a string of 15 straight games — and will start again tonight, but Hall says senior Connor Kaegi, who led two second-half touchdown drives in last week's win over Churchill, will likely get another chance against the red-hot Millers.
Springfield (3-1, 2-0 MWL) has won three games in a row, including last week's stunning 37-28 road win over then-No. 9 Eagle Point in which the Millers overcame a 28-7 second-quarter deficit.
"We've prepared both quarterbacks to run the game plan," Hall said. "I think Danial has strengths and Connor has strengths, and you have to give Connor a lot of credit because he's worked really hard in the offseason to put himself in position to compete for some playing time. And I just think that he made the most of his opportunities last week and kept some drives alive, and took it from kind of a close ball game to giving us a nice cushion there in the second half."
After taking over for one three-and-out series late in the first quarter against Churchill, Keigi started the second half and guided Ashland (2-2, 1-1) to two touchdowns in five series — a 45-yard drive and a 12-yard drive following Sebastian Warren's 41-yard interception return — to increase the Grizzlies' lead from 9-7 to 23-7. White then took over with 3:05 to go in the game and promptly scored on a 52-yard keeper on his first play for the final 29-13 margin.
Kaegi ended up completing 9 of 16 passes for 133 yards and a touchdown without an interception, while White completed 11 of 17 passes for 167 yards and a touchdown with one pick. White also showed off his dual threat ability, rushing for 63 yards on eight carries.
The two quarterbacks combined for 300 yards passing, giving Ashland its first 300-yard passing game since legendary coach Jim Nagel stepped down in 2002, Hall said.
The switch wasn't a complete shocker. Though White entered the season as the clear starter, Kaegi saw playing time in Ashland's season-opening loss to Klamath Union. And Hall has toyed with a two-quarterback system in the past, using both Jake Scarminach (a lot) and Jake McCoy (sparingly) to great effect during the 2010 season.
"Danial's a great athlete and he's very effective as a dual-threat quarterback," Hall said, "but the package made it work last year. We're not quite running the ball like I would like to be able to run the ball (this year), so that's tough. So I felt like this week, we don't have a Danial package and a Connor package, we just know that within the packages that Connor certainly has his strengths and Danial has his strengths.
"If Connor's in the game, there's probably a tendency that we're going to throw the ball. If Danial's in the game, there's probably a tendency that we're going to run and play-action pass."
Hall added that once the game begins, decisions will be made on the fly in response to the flow of the game. If White starts off hot and the Grizzlies are moving the ball, in other words, he's not likely to be pulled.
"Connor's having a good run with it right now, and as a senior who's worked hard and wants playing time, that's fair," Hall said. "Competition should make both of them much-improved."