Of course there were nerves; what player wouldn't have them ahead of his first start as QB1? Head coach Dwayne Garrick calmed those by telling Craig Pender he would be a team captain for Barnwell's season opener against Williston-Elko.
"I knew (Garrick) trusted me from the beginning, but just telling me I was going to be captain for that game just gave me a little bit more confidence before kickoff," Pender said.
That's all the junior needed to turn his first game of the season into a memorable one. In many ways Pender could say it was the perfect start.
He was 6-of-6 passing the ball for 186 yards. Half of his passes in the blowout victory over Williston-Elko resulted in a touchdown. It was a performance that earned him both the Aiken Standard Player of the Week and made him the winner of the fan vote for the Player of the Week.
"I was just pretty much having fun playing with my guys. Without them I wouldn't have been Player of the Week," Pender said. "All my credit goes to, of course, my Lord and savior and my teammates."
Pender hit Dallyon Creech for a 33-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter. He found Marcus Robinson about two minutes later for a 42-yard scoring play. His final touchdown was 69-yard pass to Marcus Robinson in the second quarter to give Barnwell a 33-0 lead.
"He spins the ball well. He really does. He's got good accuracy. He just does a good job of getting the ball in playmakers hands," Garrick said.
Pender also passed some of the credit on to former Barnwell quarterback Pete Elmore, who helped show him how to be a leader.
Pender will take the momentum from the first game into Thursday night's game against Blackville-Hilda.