Football: Friendswood picks senior as QB
At first glance, Friendswood's Hayden Gardner might look a little more like a strong safety than a quarterback, and that's just fine with him.
"I'm a little more aggressive and physical than some other quarterbacks," the 6-1, 205-pound senior said. "I play more as an athlete than a pure quarterback, and as a full-time defender a year ago, I had a ton of fun.
"The coaches have told me I could see some time on defense this season, and that would not bother me at all."
With senior starter Peter Maetzold firmly in place under center last year, Gardner, a junior who had been a starting quarterback throughout middle school and as a freshman and sophomore, was too good to keep off the field.
While backing up Maetzold, Gardner was plugged in at strong safety, and started delivering blows and getting an unexpected education.
"It helped my game more than I thought it would, and gave me a better understanding of the defensive side," he said, "and I feel like it will help me as a quarterback."
Following in the footsteps of standout quarterbacks like Maetzold (Fordham) and 2008 senior Jacob Karam (Texas Tech) could be intimating for some, but not Gardner.
"Being a starting quarterback is my comfort zone, and I love running the ball, and throughout the spring and in 7-on-7, it's been nice to work with all of our great receivers," he said, "and playing for coach (Steve) Van Meter and all of our coaches on both sides of the ball is great.
"Coach Van Meter is a great leader and he says the right things at the right times to get you going."
Gardner and top teammates like Jonathan Johnson, Justin Battle, T.J. Scott, Trevor Stevens, Matt Morris, Gunner Holle and others will compete at the 14th annual 7-on-7 State Tournament on Friday-Saturday, July 15-16, at Texas A&M University in College Station.
Friendswood is in Pool A with Lubbock Coronado, San Antonio Johnson and Mesquite. The Mustangs meet Coronado at 1 p.m. Friday in their pool opener.
"We're looking forward to being there and the great competition that will be there, and we're also looking at it as another major opportunity to improve and work on our timing against some top defenders," Gardner said. "Timing is everything with your receivers, and this will be a good test for all of us."
Fall workouts start on Aug. 8 and there's one scrimmage at Alvin (Aug. 19) before opening the season at 7 p.m. on Aug. 26 with Angleton at home at Henry Winston Stadium.
The early schedule also includes West Orange-Stark, Stratford and Channelview, and then it really counts starting with the first District 24-4A game with Ball on Sept. 23.
After that, it's three in a row against co-preseason top 25 state-ranked teams in Dawson, La Marque and Manvel, and closes with Santa Fe and Texas City.
"There are no off days in our district, but as seniors, we're use to it, and we're preparing for it," Gardner said.
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