Senior Trever Jackson shocked the West Orange High School football community this summer when he announced he was transferring to Jones High School.
Jackson, a four-start recruit who announced recently his commitment to Ole Miss, was set to pilot a high-powered Warriors offense.
“This one hurts!” West Orange football tweeted from its official account. “Still love you, Trev. ... Wish you the best at your new school.”
However, Jackson’s decision paved a path for a new quarterback — junior Jack Reilly.
Reilly, 17, moved to West Orange from Chicago a mere month and a half ago. In the Windy City, he played for St. Francis of Assisi School. However, his love for football began at age 5, and the sport runs in his family.
“When I was able to talk to coach (Geno) Thompson about the program before getting here … everything he talked about was something I was looking for — family, work ethic,” he said. “West Orange has a reputation. … And (I said) that’s where I want to go. I want to be able to go to the next level, and this is that place.”
“Football is definitely a family thing,” Reilly said. “My dad played it, both my brothers played it. … My family (members) are a big sports fans.”
Through his years on the gridiron — and his weeks with the Warriors — Reilly has learned the value of leadership and how to implement it on the field.
“There are multiple ways for one to lead a team,” he said. “I do this sport because I feel like football is a great teacher. You go through adversity and just so many other things on a day-to-day basis with football that one way or another kind of represent life. So, it definitely (has taught me) how to be a leader, but it has also taught be a supporter — to be more supportive of others — and build my character. I feel like I’m able to bring hope to people during times of doubt and rally the troops.”
A crucial ability that Reilly has as a quarterback on the gridiron is to call audibles when necessary.
“If he sees something on defense, if there is an opportunity there, we can check plays,” Thompson said. “He has full right to do that. … The biggest thing for him is learning. … He’s been here for a month and a half or less, and the fact is he’s plugged in and he’s still learning everybody. He is still trying to get used to the Florida heat. But, I know that once the quarterback gets acclimated to the team, the team can be acclimated to the quarterback, (and) you are going to see a completely different outcome on a week-to-week basis.”
Last year, West Orange applied the motto “Sacrifice Me for We,” and even though the Warriors are still applying it this season, the new motto is “Unfinished Business.”
“We are focusing on the word finish,” Thompson said. “It’s funny, because now we are doing a really good job in the second half, but we are not doing such a great job in the first half. So, we’ve got to continue to work as a whole.”
And to do that, the team has been working on the physicality and the endurance of all teams — offense, defense and special teams — to be ready for Friday night.
“It’s just getting them to understand that we have to start off fast,” Thompson said. “We want to play the best opponent. When we scheduled, we did not necessarily look at the schedule to have a good record; we looked at the schedule to give our kids opportunities. … Because, one of the things that stuck out for me — and this is my 14th year coaching — when college coaches come in, they don’t want to just see film on a kid. They want to see film on a kid versus a quality opponent. … So, one of the main reasons why we make our schedule so difficult is to make sure that we are playing the best.”
With a 1-3 overall season record, the Warriors are entering week five of the 2023-24 season with the hopes of showing a strong front on the line of scrimmage.
“We are the underdogs,” Reilly said. “People don’t expect us to win these games, and we are going out there and we are just going to prove everyone wrong. It’s coming. Every day, we are getting better (to) drive the doubt out of people.”