From a reliable junior varsity player to the centerpiece of the biggest game in town — or the village in this case.
Jonesville junior Spencer Nielsen is taking over one of the least productive passing offenses in the Big Eight last year and while he might have a normal case of pre-game jitters prior to his first start, there is no noticeable lack of confidence in the quiet leader.
Comets head coach Joshua Lindeman said Nielsen set himself apart in the offseason by showing an unbreakable spirit of dedication, while steadily improving his understanding of the offense.
Nielsen said he loves the challenge of “just being a leader” and working hard to set an example for everyone else to follow. He’s still human though and he’s the first to admit that tonight is something he’s been waiting a long time for.
“I’m a little nervous, but real excited. I can’t wait,” he said. “I’m not really going to pay attention to (the atmosphere), I’m just going to try to get the job done.”
Getting the job done could mean several things depending on how the contest against Stockbridge plays out.
Ideally ex-quarterback and senior halfback John Sigler can help jump-start the running game from the get-go to take some of the pressure off Nielsen, but Lindeman said if the game dictates his new QB passing a lot early on, then so be it.
“He’s probably going to be really nervous I’d assume, I would be. We’re going to let the flow of the game predict (what happens,)” he said. “If it looks like we can hit the ball down field our coaching staff has complete confidence with the way his development is coming that we’ll take those shots. But if it’s not that way, we’ll run the ball and we’re confident he’ll do his part in that kind of game too.”
Nielsen said the biggest key for him is to just keep his head in the game and get all his snaps down. He said he expects the Stockbridge defense to come after him early on, but at least he’s prepared.
“(Coach) said they are real aggressive, but if we do our jobs right everything should work out,” he said.
One of the biggest encouragers throughout Nielsen’s development has been Sigler, a guy who took almost every snap at QB in 2008.
Nielsen said Sigler is always there with positive remarks and he has helped him learn some of the lingo that goes with the position.
Lindeman said the relationship is a great example of teammates working together to try to achieve their goal of finally playing in a postseason game.
“Johnny has helped him a lot, with his reads and things of that nature. Johnny has been a great addition to our backfield, it makes us explosive,” Lindeman said. “He’s becoming more vocal because he’s really excited about his senior year, and he wants to get as much out of it as he can.”
If the Comets want to get the most out of their season they will need to start with a victory tonight because Big Eight battles with Union City, Athens, Springport and Reading loom the next four weeks.
As coaches say though, it’s one snap, one series and one game at a time, and Nielsen will forever remember the first time he yells hike as the varsity quarterback in black and orange.
“We just want him to go out there and execute,” Lindeman said. “You can’t win a ball game on one play and one player can’t win or lose the game themselves. He just has to know what the offense is doing every play, why we’re doing it and he’ll be fine.”