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In a matter of seconds, a quarterback go can from hero to zero.
A misread of the defense can result in either an interception or a sack, while a perfectly executed play can result in either positive yardage or a touchdown.
A season ago, Joe Soden was learning on the fly as the first-year quarterback of the Grant County High School football team, trying to be the hero more often than not. Soden, a current senior, was trying to learn the offense during both passing leagues and scrimmages with the hopes of being able to guide the Braves to a winning season, which he did.
As he embarks on his second full season under center, Soden admits that while things are easier this year, he still has plenty of room to improve.
"I am not having to learn as much this year compared to last. The pressure of making mistakes is gone, and the speed of the game won't be that big of a deal this season. I still have a lot left to improve on," Soden said.
In addition, Soden knows that all the eyes will be focused on him, as he is the field general for the Braves. As Soden goes, so goes the offense.
"Out on the field, I am surrounded by offensive linemen and wide receivers. The crowd is the last thing on my mind, honestly. I have to focus on the task at hand and worry only about that play. As a quarterback, you have to have a short-term memory and go on to the next play when you make a mistake. It can be challenging, but you have to do it," Soden said.
Down, Set, Hut
Soden's guidance of the offense begins the second he gets the play from the sideline.
Normally, when he gets the play signaled in, Soden turns to his wrist coach, which has offensive plays on a wrist band.
"It's not confusing. This is the second year of having experience with it, and it's easier with a wrist coach because I don't have to worry about the clock, players running in and out of the huddle with the play and the chance of a penalty," Soden said.
From there, Soden has approximately 25 seconds to get the play off and execute it to the best of his ability.
"Once I get the play, I get in the huddle and give the play to the offense. We know our routes, blocks and steps after going over them in practice and at camp," Soden said.
From there, Soden barks the cadence, which is the way the quarterback calls the snap count. By adjusting the speed and inflection of his delivery, Soden can try to give his linemen an advantage.
"After the cadence, it's time to fire," Soden said.
In addition to projecting the cadence, Soden also has several seconds to see what formation the defense is in and whether or not they are going to send a blitz with the hope of sacking Soden.
"It can be intimidating knowing the other team's defense is trying to knock you down, but that's football. You have to know your role and get back up. If you get hit, you have no choice but to respond. A lot can happen in a matter of seconds. If a linebacker gets their hands on you, there is a chance you'll get sacked. But you can also throw a touchdown pass," Soden said.
Ups and Downs
Soden refuses to let last year being his first season be an excuse for his performance, acknowledging that it was "a season full of ups and downs."
On the season, Soden threw for 1,191 yards and 11 touchdowns; however, he had 11 interceptions. He completed 93 of 183 passes. On the ground, Soden rushed for 397 yards and two touchdowns.
"My passing yards were good, but the interceptions were awful," Soden said.
This season, Soden intends on putting the lessons he learned to use and hopes that translates to guiding the Braves to a playoff appearance in his senior year.
"We have so much senior leadership on this team. So many players have stepped up. I am confident in our offensive line, as they are fast and smart. I feel confident about this season," Soden said.