By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Each Friday night, Stillwater High School sophomore quarterback Taggart Brown would put on his shoulder pads, lace up his cleats and stand on the sidelines for three hours.
Brown has seen some action — playing sparingly against McAlester and Tulsa Union — but most of that was in mop-up duty against a second-team defense.
“It never was fun, it really never was,” Brown said. “I want to go out there play, and I just hated it. It’s just tough to watch everyone making plays and know that you’re not really doing anything to help them out.”
All that patience and the extra hours working in practice are about to pay off for Brown when Stillwater (3-2, 1-1 in district) takes on Booker T. Washington (3-2, 1-1 in district) at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Tulsa.
Brown is scheduled to make his first start as a Pioneer if fellow sophomore quarterback Braxton Noble is unable to go. Noble injured his arm late in the game against Tulsa Union and had his arm in a sling through most of the week.
“He’s a competitor and he wants to play,” Stillwater coach Tucker Barnard said. “If he gets the opportunity to do that, I expect that he’s going to want to step up and show people what he can do. When you’re a backup quarterback, that’s a tough position to be in. They’re all competitive and the quarterback is such a visible position that I’m sure he wants to play and I’m sure he’s ready to play.”
He may be getting his first start for Stillwater, but don’t expect Brown to succumb to the pressure of Friday night’s lights. Along with playing some games earlier this season, Brown also saw time as a freshman for Chisholm before he transferred to Stillwater.
Playing varsity football as a freshman should have been an advantage but because Chisholm’s power running offense was so different from Stillwater’s pass-first, run-and-shoot offense, it caused Brown to struggle during the spring and allowed Noble to take the starting role.
“The offenses here were completely different,” Brown said. “I went from being under center to doing shotgun. This offense is a lot more fast paced. We throw the ball a lot and I like that.”
Barnard said that Brown has made some big strides in understanding Stillwater’s offense, pointing to Brown’s perfect throw on the final play in practice as an example.
“He’s head and shoulders better than he was in the spring,” Barnard said. “Taggart really hadn’t played in a spread offense before moving to Stillwater. ... This was a completely new concept that he’s had to work through, and he’s done really well. Hopefully, if he gets the opportunity to, we’ll see how he does on Friday.”
Even if Brown is forced back to the sidelines — be it against Washington or in the following weeks once Noble is healthy — just getting some reps with the first-team offense has made the learning curve slightly less steep.
“It feels great to finally get those reps,” Brown said. “I’m very excited and nervous at the same time. It’s going to be good. ... We’ve been working on going through progressions and just learning the offense in practice ever since the spring season. I’ve learned how to read more coverages and how to step up in the pocket, so I feel like I’m ready for it.”
As for what happens when Noble does return, Barnard said it’s not up to him to decide who will be Stillwater’s starting quarterback.
“I know it’s in Taggart’s plan to be the starter, but it’s not up for us to decide — it’s up to him and Braxton.” Barnard said. “I’m not ready for a quarterback controversy yet, but I know they will work it out in practice. We’ll just have to see what happens.”