As Westerville South junior quarterback Brayden White guided the first-team offense during practice last week, an interested teammate stood in the background offering guidance and support.
Junior quarterback Peter Pedrozo helped the Wildcats get out to a 4-0 start, but was lost for the season with a broken right collarbone sustained on his team's first possession in a 35-14 loss to Reynoldsburg on Sept. 27. After leaving the school to receive medical treatment, Pedrozo returned to support his team in the closing stages against the Raiders.
That support continued throughout the week as Pedrozo helped prepare White for his first varsity start at quarterback against Olentangy on Oct. 4.
"He's helped me a lot," White said. "He always stands behind me (in practice) when I'm calling plays, running plays. He'll tell me what to do and he'll tell me formations, how to stand and toss them. ... He's going to be a good mentor as I go on."
Pedrozo had surgery Oct. 4 and is expected to need eight weeks to recover. He has watched the play that ended his season several times, and both he and coach Matthew Christ said it was a clean, legal play. He was tackled on his blind side after completing a pass to Jesse DeVore.
"I tend not to focus on the negative because although it does stink to have half of my junior year taken away, if I focus on the negative nothing is going to come out of that," Pedrozo said. "The injury happened. I just have to focus on the positives. I'm going to come back stronger from this. I have to get ready for basketball and I still have to coach up this (football) team."
With his season over, Pedrozo is serving in a coaching role.
"In terms of leadership, especially being a junior, he's one of the better leaders I've been around," Christ said. "I think he gets it. It's important for him for us to be successful even though he can't play."
In his five games, Pedrozo completed 51 of 81 passes for 748 yards with seven touchdowns and two interceptions. He added 74 yards rushing and a touchdown.
"He's got a good personality," Christ said. "He interacts well with his peers. The kids are upset. You feel for a kid like that that gets hurt. It's unfortunate. It's part of athletics."
The versatile White has seen time at punter, long snapping on field goals and handling kickoffs. Now, he has inherited the most important position on the team. He also is the starting catcher for the baseball team.
White showed promise in a 23-20 loss to visiting Olentangy. He completed eight of 14 passes for 177 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Olentangy pulled out the win on Trent Maddox's 13-yard touchdown pass to Caleb Gossett with 25 seconds remaining.
White passed for 55 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions against Reynoldsburg.
"(Facing Reynoldsburg) was not the time to get christened in a varsity football game against that defense and that moment," Christ said. "He had a good week of practice and I think he's going to settle in and do a really good job for us."
Pedrozo took over as the starting quarterback in the second half of last season and completed 54 of 105 passes for 691 yards with four touchdowns and five interceptions.
At 5-foot-11, he also is a key player for the boys basketball team at point guard. He hopes to be cleared to participate in late November, with the season scheduled to begin Nov. 27 at Dublin Coffman.
Basketball coach Ed Calo is hopeful Pedrozo will be available early in the season.
"I felt terrible," Calo said of Pedrozo's injury. "I know how much he loves football. I know how much he loves to compete and I know how hard he worked to put himself in a good position for success. Knowing Peter as I do, I know how hard he will work to get back."
Pedrozo's brother, Jude, is a 2019 graduate and was an offensive and defensive lineman and long-snapper for the Wildcats. He was second-team all-league last season and now is the starting long snapper at Michigan State.
Both brothers have much respect for each other.
"It's amazing because it goes both ways," Jude said. "I look up to him because he's such a smart, focused player and I wish I had his skill. Everything about him, he's a very smart player. It comes from the QB position. I look up to him just as much that he looks up to me. I'm very proud of him."
The football team faces another challenge this week, as it will visit Olentangy Liberty on Friday, Oct. 11. The Patriots improved to 6-0 overall and 1-0 in the OCC-Buckeye by rallying for a 17-7 win at previously unbeaten Westerville Central on Oct. 4.
Liberty has reached a Division I state semifinal in each of the past three seasons.
"I have to help the team any way I can," Peter said. "I have to show Brayden all the tips and tricks because I still think we can have a good season. I think we can finish off strong and if we're lucky enough to make the playoffs, maybe have a deep playoff run."