A backup quarterback can never predict an injury happening to the leader of the team, but his mindset has to be ready at all times.
Last Friday, a Circle High School defender pancaked Chanute High School starting quarterback Eric Erbe on an option play and put all his weight on him, breaking his right clavicle. And junior backup QB Kam Koester had no choice but to go in the game and continue to steer the ship in a 7-0 Chanute football game in the middle of the second quarter at the Chanute Community Sports Complex.
At the time, however, Koester didn’t know how severe Erbe’s injury was – no one did. Nobody knew that the sophomore quarterback, disastrously, would miss at least the entire regular season and would need to rehab for six to eight weeks to get healthy.
“I just thought I had to go in for a play or two, and then they just told me, so it was kind of like a shock, really, but everything worked out fine – we still got the win,” Koester said.
When Koester first came in to replace Erbe at quarterback, he handed the ball off to senior running back Ryker Donovan, who carried the pigskin for three yards. Blue Comets head football coach Clete Frazell called a game conducive to Koester’s experience level pertaining to the number of repetitions he has had over the summer, which isn’t that many in comparison to Erbe.
It worked out. Koester went 6 of 12 for 30 yards and a win after junior kick-off returner and running back Jackson Coombs ran the ball back for a walk-off touchdown with just 15 seconds left to go in the game.
While the mindset is always to focus on the next play, Koester couldn’t help but think about what happened to Erbe for the game to even get to this point.
“At first I wasn’t real happy. I like playing receiver and all, but I was just sad for Erbe because it was his first year and first game. He really didn’t get to play that much, so this next year he will come back strong,” Koester said.
Erbe, who is quarantining and rehabbing in hopes of making a return as early as the first round of the playoffs, said Koester isn’t wet behind the ears when it comes to quarterbacking.
“Kam is a great leader and isn’t afraid to tell the guys what they need to do and where they need to be. He’s played quarterback before so he knows what he’s doing,” Erbe said.
Koester took backup repetitions throughout the summer, and played some backup and on the JV team last year. Erbe was taking the majority of the quarterback snaps during camp and practice, but Koester was going in as quarterback when Erbe went out, no more than 10 reps in each practice.
Koester is willing to do whatever it is the team needs him to do. The 6’2” student-athlete said Frazell announced this week he will be the starting quarterback, and there was actually a point in time in which Koester preferred to play quarterback.
When Koester first started playing quarterback as a little boy, he saw himself continuing that position. He played quarterback at Royster Middle School and as a freshman at CHS.
But as he started playing receiver, he enjoyed the pass-catching position even more. Last year, Koester was a key receiver on a Blue Comets’ team that went 9-2 and went to a State sectional playoff game. The success Koester relished as a receiver materialized into a passion in catching the football.
Sure Koester has exhibited his arm talent – a trait that is often showcased when he is playing Blue Comets baseball as a pitcher and position player on the diamond – but he really loves to catch the football.
Still, Koester will use his talents to fill a void right now. And this week is the start of first-team reps at QB.
“Just as many as I can just to get used to the environment and everything, just to get as many reps as I can. I’ve gotten as many as I can in practice,” Koester said.
He won’t be alone when he suits up Friday at home, 7 pm versus Pittsburg. Erbe said he will be there for him on the sideline.
“(I’ll) pretty much (do) whatever I can do. He’s a smart dude, so I’m not worried about him,” Erbe said.
“I know he’ll be just fine. I’ve known him for a while and I know he’ll do whatever he can to lead the team and get a W.”