Special for the Effingham Herald
GUYTON – It’s Wednesday morning and the sun is just waking. But South Effingham head football coach Nathan Clark is already watching film in his office.
Nearby, soaking in knowledge like a sponge, is Mustangs starting quarterback hopeful Kaden DeGenero.
“I’m trying to get the other quarterbacks to come in, but Kaden is making the biggest commitment,” Clark said. “He wants to be the guy and he’s learning all the little details.”
A year ago, SEHS’s quarterbacking took an unforeseen sack. Grooming a replacement for graduated school-record setting passer Taylor Jackson was minimized when summer workouts were closed because of COVID-19 fears.
Clark and his staff lost additional practice time just before the season.
Then, in the fourth game of the season, Alex Cela, the Mustangs eventual starting quarterback, broke his arm and was lost for the season.
Suddenly, next man up was the running back used in wildcat situations.
Predictably, it didn’t go well. South eventually transitioned to a run-oriented single wing offense and a team that looked so dynamic with Jackson’s 1,981 yards and 23 TDs through the air in 2019 had the passing offense sputter to 147 yards and 1 TD (according to maxpreps) in 2020.
SEHS threw just one pass in games against Benedictine and Brunswick.
Now Clark is starting over and DeGenero, who ran the freshman team before being called up to JV last season, is showing promise.
“I think I’ve made a lot of improvements, a lot of strides,” DeGenero said. “I watched my film from last year. I’ve been watching film all summer, all winter too. I’ve made a bond with these teammates. They’ve welcomed me in and coach Clark has given me the keys to the offense.”
At 6-foot, 194 pounds, DeGenero is physically bigger than the other quarterback hopefuls in camp. And Clark likes how DeGenero is growing mentally.
“For a sophomore, he’s pretty cerebral and he gets the structure of the passing game and where the guys are supposed to go,” Clark said. “He makes rookie mistakes, but at the same time that’s expected right now.
“He’s still developing. His body is still growing. He has to get stronger and at the same time become faster and more agile. His arm continues to strengthen. I think by the time the season starts, he’ll know what to do and where to go with the ball.”
Time, however, is ticking. The Mustangs will go to a padded camp at Toombs County next week. GHSA conditioning starts July 27 and pads can come on Aug. 1.
SEHS kicks off the season on the road against Metter on Aug. 27 – less than 1 ½ months away.
“They’re training me for the position so if they tell me to throw the ball, I’ll throw the ball. No issues there,” DeGenero said.
Clark, who directed Lee County’s multiple offense to Class AAAAAA football state championships in 2017 and 2018, says he wants more versatility in the Mustangs offense this season. Early morning film study can only help Game Night.
“I’d like to get to the point of being able to throw the ball when we want to throw it,” Clark said. “If we continue to do this, (DeGenero) will get that extra film time and he’ll be ready.”