Knights Face an Uncertain Future at QB With Two Capable Players

Quarterback Aidan McDaniel breaks through a tackle before scoring a touchdown against Northwest High School on 8/19 (Jared Kinnard)

Quarterback Aidan McDaniel breaks through a tackle before scoring a touchdown against Northwest High School on 8/19 (Jared Kinnard)

It’s a muggy, 86-degree afternoon. The temperature is rising, but the players running in full pads on crushed rubber pellets can’t feel it. They’re only thinking of their next water break and relief from the heat.

Finally, one of the assistant coaches calls for a break. Almost every player runs back to the locker room. Some walk.

One stays.

Connor Gallagher is in a difficult position; he was the starting quarterback for the Knights last season until an inflamed muscle in his lower back sidelined him right before the Homecoming football game against rival FHC, leaving the quarterback job to an untested freshman.

“I’d say overuse [caused the injury],” Gallagher said. “I wasn’t doing anything recovery wise for it. I think I’ve learned how to use my body more, and that’s gotten me better at my position. I’m knowing a little bit more about my body, what helps it and what doesn’t.”

Gallagher’s injury gave then-freshman Aidan McDaniel the chance to play at the varsity level, and even though he has the varsity experience, McDaniel knows that the fight for playing time is going to be raging all season.

“I think I’ve matured,” McDaniel said, “and I work harder each and every day. Because anything can happen. Connor, if he goes down, we always have a freshman to come up, just like last year.”

Both players have shown promise in training camp, and both will almost assuredly see time under center.

“Connor and Aidan have been two above-the-line, standup team members since Day 1,” head coach Brett Bevill said. “They’ve been competing every day over the summer. They root for each other, and they work with each other. You couldn’t find two better guys in a competition.”

No matter which quarterback gets the starting nod or which player may be handling the pigskin, the offensive gameplan remains the same.

Malik Johnson battles with a Northwest High School wide receiver in their game on 8/19 (Jared Kinnard)

Malik Johnson battles with a Northwest High School wide receiver in their game on 8/19 (Jared Kinnard)

In the team’s first regular season game against Northwest High School, the Knights came out firing, scoring on a 62-yard catch and run from McDaniel to Taron Woods and proceeding to score three touchdowns on their first four plays en route to a 54-26 victory over the Lions.

“[It was] unexpected,” Bevill said following the game. “We were not planning for that. I always thought that when you become head coach, in your first game, the one time ever, you might as well go deep. We have some playmakers, and they made the play. It was really exciting. We’ve worked a lot on our offense and being up-tempo and putting people in bad situations, and I feel that a lot of the time that we had [the ball], they were in pretty bad spots. It was great.”

The phenomenal offense was coupled with a defense that forced two punts, a fumble and a turnover-on-downs on their opponents’ first four drives.

The most important story, though, remains on the offense, as McDaniel started the game against Northwest and threw for 108 yards and two touchdowns, per STL High School Sports, while Gallagher played intermittently to replace McDaniel and hand the ball off to Donnell Hawkins, who ran for 104 yards and two touchdowns. It remains to be seen how the Knights will play out the rest of the season, but it was McDaniel who got the bulk of the playing time on Friday.

“I think that whatever works best for the team is for the best,” McDaniel said. “It doesn’t matter who we play, we’ve always got to play our hearts out as a team and as a family.”

The Knights’ next game is against the FZE Lions, Bevill’s team of nine years as an assistant coach. They will face off this Friday, Aug. 26 at FZE.

“It’s going to be weird,” Bevill said. “I wish them the best. I hope they go 8-1, just next week they don’t get that one, that’s all I care about.”

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