Mason Hayes insists the real pressure in his first full season as the starting quarterback at Kennedy Catholic isn’t being the guy to come after Sam Huard – it is backing up what he accomplished in an abbreviated stint last spring.
After Huard – the state’s all-time leading passer (13,214 yards, 153 touchdowns) – left midway through the shortened season to enroll early at the University of Washington, Hayes started the final three games, passing for 949 yards and 15 touchdowns (at a 58.4 percent clip).
In each game, the Lancers won to cap an undefeated season.
“This year, all the spotlight is on me now – just because people think I am a system (Air Raid) guy,” said the 6-foot-1, 190-pound junior. “Now, I have something to prove. I feel like I can really go and show out what I’ve got.”
Kennedy Catholic kicks off its season Friday night in a non-conference game at Eastside Catholic in Sammamish.
If you are looking for similarities between the two teenagers, there aren’t many. Both are similar size (Huard is 6-2, 190). Both possess underrated athleticism.
Lancers’ coach Sheldon Cross said Hayes’ quick acclimation – and success – to the varsity game should not have come as a thunderbolt. This is his third season studying the offense. And he had a chance to pick Huard’s brain on a daily basis in practice.
“I thought he was the second-best quarterback in the league (behind Huard),” Cross said. “He did a great job. He handled it well.”
But, this is truly a turn-the-page new season. Not only is Huard the backup Huskies’ quarterback going into their season opener this weekend, high-volume wide receivers Junior Alexander (who played in Arizona State’s first game) and Jabez Tinae (UW) are no longer in the fold as well.
What Hayes will have at his disposal is emerging Lamont Richardson, who goes from No. 4 wide receiver to top dog this fall.
Throw in big targets Nathaniel Barnes (6-2) and Maclane Watkins (6-4), the pass-catching cast will look drastically different than it did the past few seasons.
“We all have a really strong connection,” Hayes said. “We will go in strong – hot and ready to go.”
One part of Hayes’ game that Cross wants to take better advantage of his mobility, especially after the junior put on added weight in the offseason.
“He’s a very good athlete – he can punt, he can kick, he plays basketball and was on the track team,” Cross said. “He can move around … and we can do some quarterback-run things with him.”
Hayes is his own player. He said he’s not trying to be the next Huard in this offense.
But he will take some of the lessons he learned from one of the all-time greats in Washington onto the field, especially when things get challenging.
“The biggest thing I took from Sam – just to always come back firing, even if you do badly on the last drive,” Hayes said. “Just don’t doubt yourself, but be yourself out there.”