Riley Taylor is going to be the answer to a trivia question as of Aug. 25. When Taylor takes that first snap against Denton Braswell at Northwest ISD Stadium, he will be known as the first quarterback in Haslet V.R. Eaton history.
There’s something sobering and empowering that comes with the kind of honor. Eaton plays its first varsity game on that Thursday after spending the 2015 season as a junior varsity program. Eaton begins fall camp on Aug. 8.
“I look at it with a sense of pride,” the junior said. “What I want to show is that we’re going to be the kind of team that doesn’t quit from the first snap. It won’t matter where we’re at in the game.”
Eagles head coach Brad Turner named Taylor the starter for the junior varsity season. That proved to be a good move as the squad finished 9-1. Taylor (6-3, 200) has the physique to play the position. He just doesn’t have the experience. But then again, no one on this Eaton roster has varsity experience.
The excitement building toward that first game will reach unparalleled levels for a school that will start in Class 5A. What to make of the early results and Taylor’s performance will be anyone’s guess. Braswell and Frisco Reedy are also first-year varsity programs. Frisco Independence is coming off a 2-8 2015 season.
But every program has to have a beginning. Taylor, who would have attended Justin Northwest, has soaked up as much time with his receivers through the summer 7-on-7 season as well as attending several college camps, including TCU’s this past Friday.
“I think we’re going to have a chance to air it out,” said Taylor, who doubles as a pitcher on the baseball team. “I feel like I have a strong enough arm to make some plays. The one thing I learned from the TCU coaches was that they wanted me to keep working to predict the routes and get the ball to the spot and trust that the receiver will be there. Just get the ball out early.
“I keep working with my receivers every day, so there is definitely something to build on.”
It doesn’t appear the Eagles will lack the ability to move the ball. Between Taylor and Division I running back Titus Swen, Eaton should be able to score. There should be some run-pass options for Taylor to use.
The question will be with the offensive and defensive lines and whether there is enough size and mobility to keep plays open and limit the damage defensively.
What gives Eaton a chance to grow quickly and become successful is its size. As it adds another grade level this year, the school turned in 1,964 for its enrollment to the UIL for the February realignment. Now, that number was based more on a projection from a formula. However, it’s usually pretty close. Eaton is the third largest school in District 6-5A behind Northwest and Saginaw Chisholm Trail. The district also features state power Aledo.
Chemistry, belief, trust and execution all factor into a football team’s success. If the Eagles are going to find some of that, Taylor understands he’s going to have to play an important role.
“We know that there aren’t going to be any expectations on us,” Taylor said. “But we’re going to show that we’re better than people think we are.”