Pickerington Central QB Simkins filling key responsibility
On third-and-4 from the Marion-Franklin 9-yard line midway through the second quarter Aug. 31, Pickerington High School Central junior quarterback Colby Simkins saw junior wide receiver Cris Reyes open and in position to score a touchdown.
Simkins threw a strike to Reyes, but it occurred just a flash too late and Reyes caught the ball out of the back of the end zone. The Tigers settled for a field goal.
As Simkins has learned from coach Jay Sharrett, being the quarterback of a team that has its eye on championships every year often can be as much about getting through the ups and downs as it is about the glamour.
"(Sharrett) is our offensive coordinator, but the specific position he coaches is quarterback, and he let me know that quarterback is a very lonely position," Simkins said. "There are certain times that nobody wants to be the quarterback."
Central improved to 1-1 with a 45-24 win over Marion-Franklin. The Tigers are off until Sept. 14, when they open OCC-Ohio Division play against visiting Lancaster.
Simkins, like many of the Tigers' skill position players, is taking on a key role for the first time.
He assumed the role filled last year by 2012 graduate Nick Jensen-Clagg, who completed 130 of 222 passes for 1,974 yards with 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions during an 11-3 season. Jensen-Clagg made first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district in Division I as the Tigers were state runners-up.
The steady season Jensen-Clagg put together a year ago came after he split time at quarterback in both 2009 and 2010 with 2011 graduate Grant Hammond.
Simkins, however, doesn't have the same history to fall back on after seeing his only previous varsity action in what he called "cleanup time."
The 5-foot-11, 185-pounder completed eight of 19 passes for 175 yards with one touchdown and one interception in a 28-15 loss to Cincinnati Colerain in the Aug. 25 opener.
Against Marion-Franklin, Simkins was eight of 10 for 152 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He also rushed for 41 yards on eight carries.
Behind a line led by seniors Zach Gorman and Nick Walter, eight players carried the ball at least once and five players had at least one catch against Marion-Franklin.
The plethora of options has helped Simkins settle in quickly.
"It's been a very easy transition," he said. "We have a lot of weapons and the main part is that we have a great line. There's plenty of time back there."
"He's learning that three bad decisions aren't erased by one good play," Sharrett said. "Offense is more methodical, more machine-line. But he's coming (along)."
The top pass-catchers in the Simkins-led offense have been Reyes and senior tight end Taco Charlton.
On Central's second touchdown drive against Marion-Franklin, Simkins hit Reyes over the middle and Reyes sprinted for 43 yards before Jermaine Brown-Shumate made a touchdown-saving tackle.
Reyes had three catches for 69 yards and one touchdown against Colerain and three receptions for 78 yards against Marion-Franklin.
After having two receptions for 17 yards against Colerain, Charlton's only catch against Marion-Franklin came early in the third quarter when Simkins hit him for a 15-yard touchdown and a 24-16 lead.
Simkins' interception against the Red Devils came on a deep throw late in the third quarter, with the Tigers leading 38-24.
"He is growing every game and getting better and better," Charlton said.
Brent Walton contributed 87 yards rushing and two touchdowns, Greg Basalyga had 58 yards rushing and one score, Brenden Doyle rushed for 55 yards and one touchdown and Jordan Pieczynski added a late scoring run against Marion-Franklin.
Simkins is happy with his place in the offense as others settle into their roles.
"If you put the team in bad positions, that's when there can be some bad attitudes," he said. "We haven't had that yet. Everybody has just been focused on the next drive and what the next thing is that they have to do."