Just for fun, of course.
We’ve reached the point of the high school schedule where teams break from region play, and a player in The Anniston Star’s coverage area has emerged as such a difference maker.
Much like in recent real Heisman races, he wasn’t the first player to come to mind in preseason. Oxford running back and Auburn commit Racean Thomas could play his way back on top by season’s end, but nagging injuries have slowed him.
Events have conspired to allow another player to pass and run himself and his team into focus, and Clay Central coach Kris Herron has already compared this player’s game to that of reigning Heisman winner Johnny Manziel.
So, hand this imaginary high school midseason snapshot Heisman vote to Munford quarterback Monteo Garrett, because he deserves it. He’s the biggest reason Munford, a proud program that has lost more than it has won in recent years, sits undefeated and alone atop a tough Class 4A region.
And while real Heisman finalists will go to New York in December, continued big-time play will place Garrett at the Alabama Sports Writers Association’s equivalent ceremony in Montgomery. He’d have to be on a watch list for 4A Back of the Year, at least.
Ask Munford coach Will Wagnon, who coached 2009 Alabama Mr. Football Coty Blanchard as Cherokee County’s offensive coordinator.
Garrett “has meant a ton to this team for the last two years as quarterback,” Wagnon said. “He’s been the staple of our offense, not just as a facilitator, which a lot of quarterbacks are, but as a play maker.”
Garrett was Munford’s leading rusher and passer in 2012 and is again through four games this season, passing for 601 yards and four touchdowns and rushing for 538 yards and eight scores.
He has landed on recruiting radars, with scholarship offers from Georgia Southern (option quarterback), Middle Tennessee State (quarterback/athlete), Murray State (quarterback) and Western Kentucky (athlete).
“He’s got a bunch of people talking, but those are basically his offers right now,” Wagnon said. “Georgia Tech is looking at him as maybe a corner, but they haven’t offered him yet.”
Garrett’s rise as Munford’s quarterback has tracked with the school’s rise in football under Wagnon. The Lions are 12-4 since the start of the 2012 season, including a 4-0 start to this season. The 2012 season saw them make their first playoff appearance in seven years and second since the turn of the century, and they advanced to the second round.
The Lions started this season among others receiving votes in the ASWA poll and have risen to No. 7 in 4A, with region victories over previously unbeaten Cleburne County and Jacksonville.
Wagnon became Munford’s coach before the 2010 season, which was Garrett’s freshman season. Garrett saw action at quarterback as a freshman and became the starter as a sophomore.
It was after rushing for more than 1,000 yards but throwing 10 interceptions as a sophomore that Garrett wanted to prove he is a quarterback, not just an athlete playing the position. He sought Wagnon’s help.
“He came to me after that season was over, and he said, ‘Coach, I want to be a better passer,’” Wagnon said.
Wagnon got film of various quarterbacks and quarterback coaches, and Garrett devoured them. After throwing 10 interceptions against just three touchdown passes in 2011, he threw 20 touchdown passes against eight interceptions in 2012.
It wasn’t just video that made the different.
Garrett and Wagnon “sat down in his office, and we went over the mechanics of throwing and how to develop me more as a quarterback,” Garrett said. “I feel that, I have learned some great things. He has truly taught me everything I need to know about quarterback, and that’s the reason I play the way I do now.”
At Garrett’s best, he turns potential disaster plays into potential big plays. A YouTube video from Munford’s victory over Lincoln this season shows his best imitation of Manziel’s scramble from Alabama defensive lineman Jeoffrey Pagan, breaking free and scrambling away.
Manziel completed a prayer heave toward three potential receivers, but Garrett threw a downfield strike to an open man. The pass was dropped but should have gone for a big play.
Of course, any comparisons to Manziel are merely a matter of Garrett’s style, but comparisons to Blanchard hit closer to home and reality.
“Coty was more of a facilitator,” Wagnon said. “He was better at distributing the ball.
“Monteo, sometimes, he will get to the point where he tries to do too much himself, and that’s what we’re working on. We’re working on him making sure that he understands than, ‘Hey, you’ve got other guys out here. Trust in them and facilitate more.’
“But where those guys are similar? Monteo might be a little bit faster. Coty might throw it a little better, but the thing about both of them is they can make a bad situation good.”
Garrett has helped Wagnon do just that at Munford, and that accomplishment makes him the best prep player around here at this snapshot of a season.
Sports columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576, firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @jmedley_star.