NORTH AUGUSTA — Coming into this season, the coaching staff of the North Augusta High School football team knew it would have more of a transition at quarterback than it had to deal with in the past four years. Last year’s starter, Tyrell Hillary, was a senior who made a seamless transition from two-year starter Loranzo Hammonds after serving as his backup and filling in when Hammonds was unable to play.
For the 2012 campaign, the Yellow Jackets didn’t have a returning starter at quarterback, nor did they have an upperclassman who was ready to assume the role after serving as an active understudy. What they did have was a senior who was new to the system after transferring from another school and a rising sophomore that saw very limited action in mop-up duty last season.
In spite of the inexperience, North Augusta is off to another strong start this season with Cody Turner, the senior, taking the majority of the snaps and Trib Reece, the sophomore, running the show every third series. But Turner suffered an injury in the upset loss to Sumter, has already missed one game and won’t play in tonight’s contest at Lexington. The learning curve for Reece has been accelerated, and he’s now the primary signal caller for the Yellow Jackets’ fast-paced offense.
So far, he has met the challenge. In his first start, Reece led North Augusta to a 42-7 win over Grovetown. He completed 10 of 17 passes for 158 yards and a touchdown. For the season, he has passed for 514 yards and seven scores.
“He understands his role,” North Augusta head coach Dan Pippin said of Reece, whose role and playbook have expanded. “Right now, he’s the quarterback. He’s the guy.”
Although Reece is only a sophomore, he has a good understanding of what Pippin and his coaches want to do on offense. He’s been in the North Augusta system since he was an eighth grader and might be more versed with the offensive philosophy than Turner.
Reece can run the Yellow Jackets’ challenging no-huddle, zone-read offense, that often works out of the spread formation. He can get the signals from the sideline, get his teammates lined up and call out the play while having his front five adjust to what the defense is showing him. And he does it all in 20 seconds.
“He gets the play in quick,” Pippin said. “He’s worked at it pretty hard. … He’s being a good leader. He understands the offense, he’s been in it two years, and he plays within him self.”
Pippin also said Reece has worked hard on the physical aspects of his game since last season. The 6-foot-3 sophomore has worked on his footwork to get in a rhythm and be in the proper position to release accurate passes. While Reece needs to add weight to his frame, Pippin is enthusiastic about what his young quarterback can accomplish – this year and over the next two seasons when he figures to be the Yellow Jackets starting signal caller.
“He’s still a sophomore and got two years to go, but I see him getting better,” Pippin said. “He can make every throw we ask him to make, and he’s going get stronger. He’s going to help us in the long run; if he doesn’t, he won’t play.”
Even without Turner suited up, Reece is still sharing QB duties. Trey Morgan, North Augusta’s jack-of-all trades superstar athlete, is taking snaps as a Wildcat quarterback – as he has throughout the season. Rather than swap series, like Reece was doing with Turner at the start of the season, Morgan is playing quarterback on a play-by-play basis. But make no mistake, when the Yellow Jackets are at their best throwing the ball, it will be with Reece on the field.
That’s a credit to Reece, who has had his playbook expanded to the entire North Augusta offense, not just the plays he was best at executing or most comfortable calling. It’s also a tribute to his teammates, who have rallied around the youngster and lifted their games to make the whole squad better. The challenge will only get greater as the Yellow Jackets embark on their Region 5-AAAA schedule. But for the time being, Reece is helping to keep his team among the best in South Carolina.
“The kid is doing well, and I’m happy,” Pippin said, smiling before adding, “If he keeps working, he’ll be special good.”
Noah Feit is the Sports Editor for the Aiken Standard and has been a professional journalist for more than a dozen years after graduating from Syracuse University.