The coaching staff at Central Catholic High School was faced with a difficult decision in October.
Donovin Townsend was leading the team quite nicely at quarterback, but there was a sophomore in the wings whose placement behind center had the chance to make the Raiders better at several positions.
Hunter Petlansky, that passer-in-waiting, had to sit out the first five weeks of the varsity season after transferring from St. Marys, but there was Central Catholic facing Los Banos in its seventh game, and Petlansky remained on the sidelines as Townsends understudy.
Was the youngster going to get significant action at quarterback this season, or would the senior Townsend be the player to lead the Raiders?
As it turned out, the decision was made easy when Townsend suffered a shoulder injury. It wasnt bad enough to keep him off the field, but it hindered his throwing motion. So Townsend a two-way starter moved to flanker as Petlansky moved to quarterback and Central Catholic hasnt missed a beat.
And thats how the Raiders, now 14-1, will come to start a sophomore at quarterback as they attempt to defend their state Division 4 bowl championship at Carsons StubHub Center on Friday at 4 p.m. against Bakersfield Christian.
Donovin made it easy for Hunter to become a leader at quarterback, said Central Catholic coach Roger Canepa. When he got injured and knew he wasnt going to play quarterback, Donovin became a mentor to Hunter, who fumbled and threw a few bad balls at the start. Donovin is all about winning and was willing to move to flanker. The bottom line is that the move allowed us to become more athletic in several spots.
Petlanskys passing stats arent eye-popping, but thats because the Raiders have averaged 276 rushing yards per game this season. The 6-foot, 2-inch, 225-pound 15-year-old has completed 26 of 50 passes for 484 yards and five scores against two interceptions. He had his best overall game in last Fridays NorCal victory over McClymonds, completing seven of 10 passes for 135 yards and a score, adding 33 yards on six carries.
Our offense isnt a drop-back quarterback, Tom Brady scheme, Townsend said. We run, and then we run some play-action passes. There are keys on those play-action passes and it doesnt take a genius to figure them out. Once I talked to Hunter and he figured them out, I knew there wasnt going to be a dropoff at quarterback.
Leave the passing stats for down the line, when Petlansky will be gunning for the attention of colleges. But if attention is all he wanted, he could have stayed at St. Marys.
His football journey actually began before that, while attending junior high at Ripon Christian and playing for the Knights junior program, under the eye of former Stanford quarterback Randy Fasani.
It was hard leaving there to go to St. Marys first because I have a lot of friends there and I knew Id be leaving a great coach, said Petlansky, whose transfer after one year to Central Catholic was forced by logistics.
The decision to transfer here was not based on football, he said. My mom had to stay home to take care of my grandfather and it was going to be tough to drive to Stockton every day.
Once in the Raiders program, there was a CIF transfer rule that had to be followed. Per the rule, he had the choice of playing the full season on the junior varsity team and not be eligible for promotion to the varsity at any point, or he could sit-out the first five varsity games and be fully eligible for the rest of the season.
It was a hard decision because I love to play, but it was the right decision, Petlansky said. Donovins a great quarterback, but when he got hurt I was up here to take his spot.
Townsend had been good at quarterback, completing 43 of 80 passes for 615 yards and four scores while healthy. As it turns out, as good as he was behind center, he was just as valuable as a mentor for his replacement.
While the spot was mine, we competed in practice, Townsend said. I took Hunter under my wing, told him what I was seeing and tried to help him as much as I could. I wanted to make the move as easy for him because I know the offense inside and out while it was all new for him.
Now, as a grizzled veteran of eight starts, Petlansky is starting to settle in at quarterback. But with that in mind, Fridays game will be played on what easily will be the biggest stage on which hes called an audible.
I always set pretty high standards for myself and most of the time I dont live up to them, Petlansky said. But you always have to set high goals for yourself if you want to go somewhere.
This is great and a new experience. Ive never had to prepare to travel to play in a football game before now, especially a game as big as this.
Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2150. Follow him on Twitter @modestobeek.