In most instances of a quarterback competition, the loser often finds himself carrying a clipboard on Friday nights. But for Petal’s two-way battle at the position, things are a little different.
The winner will of course start under center at the varsity level for the first time against some of the top teams in the state on a weekly basis; and whoever finishes second will play in those big games as well at wide receiver.
Junior DeCarlos Nicholson and sophomore Jeremiah Robinson are vying for the job left vacant by the graduation of Jordan Wilson. By all accounts, the competition is like their friendship—close.
“We’ve been knowing each other since preschool,” Robinson said. “Then growing up, we always played ball together. We’d be on the same team one year, and the next he’d be up a level. But we’ve always been good friends and played the same positions.”
Yes, it’s about as friendly of a battle for arguably the most important position in all of sports that you’ll find.
“It’s about being accountable for each other,” added Robinson. “We just gotta do our jobs and not let each other down and be prepared for anything. And continue to put in work.”
“They’re really good athletes and both have come a long ways,” Petal head coach Marcus Boyles said when asked about the competition. “The biggest thing is being poised under the fire, taking care of the football and getting the football to the playmakers. You ain’t gotta do too much, just play within the system.”
If the season started today, Robinson admits that Nicholson would likely quarterback the Panthers, citing the junior’s got a lead on him a little bit. Then again, Nicholson knows Robinson’s got an edge in a few key areas.
“Some of the throws he [Robinson] makes, I probably couldn’t make them, so he challenges me to make them,” Nicholson said. “And some of the runs he has, I gotta up my game and make sure I can keep my position.”
As a read-option guy, Robinson (listed at an even six-feet) compares himself to mobile quarterbacks like former Heisman Trophy winners Lamar Jackson and Marcus Mariota. Nicholson (6-foot-3), on the other hand, tries to emulate current Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant, a dual-threat passer in his own right.
“He [Nicholson] can throw better than me,” Robinson said. “He’s got a stronger arm.”
As for who wants the job more, it might just be Robinson, who dreams of playing the position at the college level one day. If the current standings hold up though and Robinson starts at wide receiver, he’s fine with that, too.
“I’ll be perfectly fine,” said Robinson. “I’ll do whatever it takes to help the team. So playing wide receiver or something else is no problem for me.”
The Panthers will start official practice next week and open the 2018 season on Saturday, Aug. 18 at Hattiesburg.