Prince Avenue Christian School freshman quarterback Lucian Anderson III admits as of Thursday evening, the biggest game he remembers playing in so far is the Winder-Barrow game as a member of the junior varsity last season.
That will change Friday night.
Anderson will be under center in place of Brock Vandagriff for the Wolverines when they host Athens Academy in the annual Backyard Brawl on Friday night.
Anderson has been warned by his teammates about what to expect from the atmosphere, the physicality of the game as well as the potential distractions that come with being the big show in town on Friday night.
“All my teammates say it’s going to be the most physical high school football game that I’m going to play in ever probably,” Anderson said. “I’m really excited to get out there and do it.”
The freshman feels calm going into the matchup. Anderson hasn’t had many reasons to have his ability doubted. In his first two high school starts he’s gone 18-for-23 for 392 yards, six touchdowns and zero interceptions.
The Wolverines’ coaching staff hasn’t overwhelmed their freshman signal-caller with expectations of carrying the team, but they’ve asked that he take care of the football. Anderson has done that in his first two times out.
That won’t change on Friday. There won’t be a need for Anderson to put on a cape. The Wolverines feel if they take care of the ball, they will have a shot to upend the Spartans at Brad Akins Field Friday night.
“I think as coaches, we haven’t put pressure on Lucian to win the ball game,” PACS head coach Greg Vandagriff said. “We’ve asked him to manage the ball game and make good decisions. I think any kid that goes 20-for-24 for 460 yards in two ball games has done his part. He’s done a great job. We’re not going to do anything different this week. We’re going to ask him to not make the heroic play, but the right play.”
Part of Anderson’s success has been not being asked to do too much; the other part is his high level of skill as a young player as well as his preparation leading into the season.
Anderson watched the Wolverines’ starter all summer and prepared as if he was going to be the starter on opening day. Anderson’s preparedness for an opportunity that no person could have predicted has immediately earned him respect among his older teammates.
“Lucian’s great, him coming in behind the number one quarterback in the nation and filling in his shoes is probably the hardest job in the country,” junior wide receiver Logan Johnson said. “I would be terrified if I was Lucian. He’s actually come in and done everything we’ve asked him to do.”
Since the Wolverines’ week three loss to Wesleyan in which Brock went down with a broken leg, Brock has been a constant resource for the freshman, but he hasn’t had to tell Anderson much.
During the summer Anderson asked questions to grasp the Wolverines’ offense. From Brock’s view, the best lesson he can teach Anderson is to allow experience to be the teacher.
“I haven’t really said much to him, but if he’s come to me I’ve answered his question,” Brock said. “You’ve got to let him play. You can’t really tell him too much. At the end it just comes up to how you react to things. You’ve got to see the reads and he’s prepared for that. I don’t have much to say to him. During the summer he was asking all these questions and now it’s just one here and there.”
The presence of the freshman behind him even acted as a tool of motivation for Brock. Anderson’s veteran like approach has forced Brock to be focused on every rep and every practice prior to his injury. It’s been good for both of the Wolverines’ young quarterbacks.
“It keeps me on my toes because at all times for sure,” Brock said. “In practice I know that I’ve got to step it up because this guy is coming. This dude wants what you have. You have to keep proving it every day and that’s me and Lucian’s relationship. It brings a confidence to the team that they wouldn’t have with a regular backup.”