When young boys grow up playing football, they often fantasize of being the quarterback who engineers the game-winning drive and delivering the spectacular throw.
In the case of the Mississippi Athletic Conference this season, the pass has been supplanted by the dazzling run.
Through two weeks, quarterbacks have altered their mode of transportation — and the results have been eye-popping.
The league already has witnessed four signal callers surpassing 200 yards on the ground in a game, and they are all among the MAC’s top six rushers statistically.
“When you’ve got good athletes at quarterback, it is tough on defenses,” North Scott coach Kevin Tippet said. “If you get an athlete in space, a lot of these guys are good at making people miss.”
Tippet’s quarterback, Randy Schmidt, has been the most electric dual threat.
After racking up 144 rushing yards against Bettendorf in the opener, the senior gashed Clinton for a career-high 295 yards and three touchdowns last week.
A receiver last season, Schmidt is leading Class 4A in rushing with his 439 yards and 12.5 yards per carry.
“When I have the chance to run, it’s a great feeling,” Schmidt said. “I love being aggressive with the ball, and I like to have control of the play.
“I feel very comfortable in that situation.”
Schmidt’s counterpart last week, Will Carr, chalked up 258 yards on the ground.
Davenport Assumption’s Jake Gervase and Pleasant Valley’s Brady Letney also have compiled memorable rushing games with 247 and 205 yards, respectively.
“With the offense we run, our quarterback has to be a running threat,” PV coach Rusty VanWetzinga said. “For us, it is pretty critical we have a couple quarterbacks because they are going to take some punishment and going to get hit a lot.”
While PV’s quarterback operates under center, North Scott, Clinton and Assumption typically are in shotgun formation.
For North Scott, its pistol offense is read-based, giving Schmidt the freedom to either take off or throw depending on the defensive scheme.
In essence, it provides North Scott with a 12th player on the field — a quarterback who is both a passer and a runner.
“Very, very challenging to stop,” Muscatine coach Jake Mueller said. “You have to decide what you’re willing to give up. It really keeps a defensive staff on their toes in how to prepare and what to emphasize because there are so many things you have to be ready for with a guy like that.”
Mueller, a quarterback at Cedar Falls in the late 1990s, said it illustrates how much offenses have evolved in the past decade.
“I don’t recall quarterbacks running much when I played, but coaches have gotten more creative over time,” he said. “They aren’t pigeon-holing players to certain positions, and a lot of them are starting to put their best athletes at quarterback.”
Carr has found his stride in Clinton’s triple-option attack. He has exceeded 100 yards in each of the first two games, including three touchdown runs of 50 yards or more.
“If you can get to the second level, you can make things happen,” Carr said, “but a lot of the credit goes to the guys up front. When they block well, it opens things up.”
There is great reward but also significant risk having a quarterback exposed in the open field.
“It is a slippery slope, but the pluses probably outweigh the minuses,” Mueller said.
Tippet admits last week’s game plan didn’t call for Schmidt to accumulate 20 carries, but credited him for making the right reads.
“Randy is just a tremendous competitor,” Tippet said. “If he takes it on his shoulders, he wants to do whatever he can to help the team win.”
VanWetzinga, a standout linebacker at Augustana College from 1992 to 1995, believes it will continue to expand.
“I don’t think year in and year out we’ll see (quarterbacks) running for 200 yards, but each coach is going to do what they like to do that puts them in the best position to win,” he said.
“Football is neat in that respect because it is a game of constant change and adjustment.”