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West Orange Times & Observer Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018 7 months ago

SIDELINE SCENE: Freshman QB’s big moment was an ensemble performance | Observer Preps

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West Orange freshman Julian Calvez came in and delivered for the Warriors against state-ranked Wekiva under impressive circumstances — but the come-from-behind win was product of a team effort.
by: Steven Ryzewski Senior Sports Editor

By any measure, the scenario in which Julian Calvez found himself last Friday night was less than ideal. 

For a freshman quarterback learning the game at the speed and intricacy of the varsity level, being thrust into a pivotal district game against the Wekiva Mustangs — and what is likely the best defense in the state — was no small task.

Steven Ryzewski | SIDELINE SCENE

But when senior starter Elijah Stimmell went down with a leg injury after scrambling to pick up a first down in the third quarter, that was what happened.

Calvez had to contend with a defensive unit with the likes of defensive tackle Tyler Davis (30 FBS offers), defensive lineman Norell Pollard (Virginia Tech commit), safety Brandon Hill (Pittsburgh commit) and several others. Not only that, but with the Warriors trailing 22-7 when he entered the game, he also was tasked with trying to lead a come-from-behind effort.

That is exactly what happened.

Calvez threw a touchdown pass to the far corner of the end zone on his second play, connecting with Jaylon Carlies. That was the first of four scoring drives on which the freshman led the Warriors, including a two-minute drill with the game on the line that set up the winning field goal by Colton Scharfield.

That kick, with 17 seconds left, gave the Warriors a 30-29 lead that became the final score.

After a first half during which the only touchdown the Warriors could muster was on a pick-six interception, the offense came alive in the most unlikely of circumstances to set the stage for the most unlikely of wins.

Afterward, the man of the hour was gracious, crediting everyone but himself.

“I just thank my offensive line — my offensive line was the one kept me in,” Calvez said. “I was just thankful that I had the opportunity to do this and it’s all because of Elijah Stimmell and coach (Vernon) Mitchell that I had the opportunity to do this, because they prepare me every day for this.”

Calvez was humble — and he was also 100% correct.

The backup freshman quarterback was the star of the remarkable comeback, but it was an ensemble production that took the entire team to complete. 

For starters, the task of keeping the Wekiva pass rush — led by Pollard and Davis — at bay fell squarely on the shoulders of the Warriors’ offensive line, and they rose to the occasion.

Then there was the play-calling. Mitchell, the offensive coordinator for the past three seasons at West Orange, had to adjust his plans on the fly. As a freshman, Calvez does not have the same arm strength as Stimmell, a senior, and so the plays dialed up by Mitchell had Calvez repeatedly making quick, short throws to his speedy wide receivers. 

Mitchell called a game in the third and fourth quarters that took a very big moment and made it as manageable as possible for the next man up.

And then there was Stimmell.

Getting injured in what is possibly the biggest home game of the season is a tough pill for any player to swallow. Instead of sulking, though, Stimmell was active on the sideline — crutches and all — and was offering encouragement to Calvez when the West Orange defense was on the field. 

As for that defense, all they did was hold Wekiva scoreless in the fourth quarter, as the Warriors made their comeback.

The big story from West Orange’s upset of Wekiva — the No. 2 team in the state and a top-35 team in the nation — was that a freshman, backup quarterback had led the team to victory.

But the story behind the story was the guys behind the guy. Whatever happens the rest of the way this fall, that was a win folks in Winter Garden are unlikely to forget any time soon.

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