Jadon Claps was one of a very few freshmen to play varsity football for Glacier Peak High School this year.
A powerhouse program located in Snohomish, Wash., the Grizzlies went 8-2 this season and were one of the top teams in the state.
Claps is an up-and-coming quarterback, but that’s not the position he played at Glacier Peak. With standout senior Ayden Ziomas under center, the Grizzlies plugged Claps in at safety.
In his first varsity game, the athletic Claps was named one of the top three defensive players. “I was happy I got to start at safety on varsity,” he said. “I was honored my coaches saw I could compete and produce at that level.”
Down the road, Claps is postioned to step in as Glacier Peak’s starting quarterback. He was the backup this season, and he was also the starting QB for the Grizzlies’ freshman team before joining the varsity.
“I was happy that I got my freshman team on track to an undefeated season (9-0) before I left for the varsity,” Claps said. “And I’m happy that we made the playoffs for the varsity.”
A left-hander, Claps accounted for 21 touchdowns in the 12 quarters he spent quarterbacking Glacier Peak’s freshman team. “My strengths as a QB are I’m athletic, I’m quick and can scramble,” he said. “I’m a leader to my teammates and I’m a good team player. I’m competitive. I study film and the playbook a lot so I know what I’m doing.”
Before his sophomore season at Glacier Peak, Claps is going to work hard to sharpen his already considerable skills. “I’m working on improving my ability to read defenses quicker and keeping my upper body level when I’m throwing,” he said. “I study my R4 book and plan to ask my coach if I could work with him in the off-season studying film.”
While he’s already shown the ability to be a strong defensive player, Claps has been playing quarterback for six years and really enjoys being on the offensive side of the ball. “I like to be the one to lead my team into battle,” he said. “I always watch the quarterback when watching the NFL and college football.”
Training with NFA since April of 2017 has helped make Claps an even better quarterback. “I’m more aware of my mechanics now,” he said. “I can now self-correct myself. Training with NFA has opened my eyes to see the little things when I watch quarterbacks throw. I can figure out defensive coverages and I’m aware of the hard deck and receivers being capped.”
Before the season, Claps placed third among incoming freshmen at the Duel. “Being my first Duel and not knowing what to expect, I wanted to at least make the Top 10,” he said. “Making the Top 3 exceeded my expectations and was a big confidence booster heading into my high school season.”
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Lining up against teams with older players didn’t stop Greyson Stevens from setting his sights high this season.
“The goal this year was to make playoffs,” he said. “I am very happy with how well we are doing playing against older boys.”
Playing for the Lightning Grid Kids in Yakima, Wash., Stevens helped his team get off to a 3-2 start, making them playoff eligible. “I am very happy with how well we are doing playing as a team,” he said. “I am also very proud of my improvements, not just as a quarterback but also on defense.”
Stevens plays cornerback and is also a kicker for the Lightning. But quarterback is his favorite position on the football field.
“I love being the quarterback because I am in control of the game,” Stevens said. “I can throw or run because I am very fast.”
A fifth grader at St. Joseph Marquette, he has been playing QB since the age of 7. “My strengths as a quarterback are my accuracy and decision making,” Stevens said. “I am working to improve on getting the ball out faster and improve the distance I throw and release time.”
He has made impressvie strides since first stepping under center, and all of the hard work and talent was on display at the Duel in July. Stevens finished fourth among incoming fourth/fifth graders at NFA’s showcase competition.
“I was very happy that I placed in the Duel,” he said. “It was very exciting to hear my name called, and it let me know I can compete with boys from all over the nation. I definitely felt very confident going into this football season after competing in the Duel.”
Stevens qualified for the Duel in Seattle, and he has been training with NFA for a year. “I feel more confident as a quarterback because of the NFA and all of the instruction I have received,” he said. “I am excited to continue my training with NFA and Coach (JC) Boice.”
In addition to being a rising football talent. Stevens also excels at basketball and baseball. He is an Honor roll student in the classroom.
“School helps me on the field because I know that I have to put the work and time into my studies, just the same as I have to put the work and time into my sport,” he said.
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It was a huge game for Mount Baker High School. On Nov. 3, the Mountaineers played King’s High School with a playoff berth on the line.
The winning school advanced. The loser went home.
Kaleb Bass is the starting quarterback for Mount Baker, and the 5-foot-10, 165-pound junior guided the Mountaineers to a resounding 45-14 win over King’s. Bass passed for 175 yards and 3 touchdowns and ran for another score as the Deming, Washington based school advanced to the postseason for the sixth straight year.
“We have done well the past few years,” Bass said.
In his second season as the varsity starting QB, Bass has done very well guiding the Mount Baker offense. He gives big credit to Coach J.C. Boice and NFA.
Bass has been training with Boice and NFA in the Seattle area for three years.
“I’m really happy with the progression I’ve made from my sophomore season to this season,” Bass said.
“I worked with J.C. a lot this summer and I’ve been really happy with what he’s taught me. Going through the progressions has really helped me as a quarterback. I’ve thrown the ball a lot better, carrying out fakes and using his technique to help me and my team get better.”
Bass received his first Duel invite at NFA’s Seattle camp earlier this year, and he finished third among incoming juniors after making the long trip to Atlanta.
“Doing well at the Duel helped me feel confident,” Bass said. “There were a lot of great quarterbacks that were there. To come in third just helps you realize how good you are at that time, how good you are overall and how much better you can be.”
Bass also plays basketball and baseball, and he hurt his calf playing basketball right before the Duel. “If you can, you play through it,” Bass said. “You’re playing for your team so sometimes you have to play hurt.”
Bass has been playing quarterback since he was in the second grade, starting at the flag level. “My older brother (Seth) was a quarterback and I loved watching him play,” he said. “It made me want to play quarterback. There’s a lot of decision making and that’s something I really enjoy doing.”
Bass gives NFA a lot of credit for helping him grow as a QB and start for the varsity as a sophomore. “NFA has helped me tremendously,” he said. “All of the stuff I didn’t know, they taught me. Now I’m actually taking all the things I’ve learned and helping teach the younger quarterbacks.”
JC Boice, the 2016 Canadian Junior Football League Coach of the Year, has made a difficult decision – he is resigning from Victoria’s Westshore Rebels football program to focus on family and further accelerate quarterback development in the United States and Canada.
Boice is leaving a program that is now a recognized brand of excellence across Canada and was the 2016 BCFC Cullen Cup champion. Boice and the Rebels’ past season ended with a close loss in the Canadian Bowl National Championships, finishing No. 2 in Canada.
“I am extremely proud of our effort,” Boice said. “I have done my job to the extent that the Rebels have stabilized and should continue to climb. During our growth phase we attracted some good new people. The Rebels have have a very solid coaching staff, they have great facilities and will continue to have access to the WTA training facility. We have laid the foundation and provided the blueprint for sustainable success.”
Boice took over the Rebels before the 2015 season. At that time, the program was mired in the basement of the BCFC and had only 23 athletes on the roster along with three coaches. Undaunted, Boice recruited top players and coaches from across Canada and guided the Rebels to the 109th annual Canadian Bowl this past season.
“We worked for it and we did it,” said Boice, who has a long track record of establishing successful football programs. “I guess I’m just a builder by nature. I love the challenge and the reward of a build. I greatly valued my time with the Rebels and I’m proud of what we did. Some very talented and very determined people joined me in turning this organization around for this great Westshore community.”
Should a need ever arise in the future, Boice would definitely consider a return to the sidelines.
“Myself and our entire Rebels coaching staff was 100 percent volunteer,” he said. “We are the only staff in the CJFL that coach without compensation. That commitment brought us all very close together and I am very proud of the work they put in and the job they did. As the head coach, I was just the tip of the spear.
”I am a person of faith and when I took the Rebels on two years ago, I knew it was what I was supposed to do. It was my calling. I truly want to thak everyone, especially Victoria and the Westshore community. The South Island is an amazing place with wonderful people.”
While it is very difficult for Boice to depart, he takes great comfort in knowing the Rebels’ program is in a very good place and in equally good hands.
“I believe there’s a group of people now in place that are unified and will continue to build on the great things that have been started,” Boice said. “President Doug Koybayashi continues to provide stability and new Rebels GM Jonathan Poppit is now going to put his mark on the Rebels moving forward. I have strongly encouraged my assistant head coach, Shane Beatty, to apply for the head coaching position and I have encouraged Jonathon and the board to retain Beatty and the remainder of the staff we assembled over the last two seasons. Coach Beatty and our staff have brought tremendous passion, commitment and skill to the Rebels’ organization.”
Moving forward, Boice is going to devote his time to his family and continue building the highly successful National Football Academy, where he serves as senior certified quarterback instructor/evaluations coordinator and the director of business development and strategic alliances.
“While I am struggling with the decision to depart from the Rebels, I am now in a season where I want to focus more on building my family and building NFA,” Boice said. “My amazing wife Janine has been very supportive of my time spent with the Rebels. Now I have the opportunity to support Janine and help her build her growing opportunities. My son Court is playing football at University of Alberta and I want to be able to travel and watch him play. My oldest daughter Karter is also at the University pursuing her career as a trauma nurse and I want to be available to support her more. My daughter Brook is loving life here in Victoria and preparing to graduate from Pacific Christian. Brook is doing some amazing things and I want to be able to be with her more for the last few months she has in our home. My youngest daughter Jordan just came through some very challenging health issues and I’ve learned that life is very precious and I want to spend more with her. And my little boy Landon is growing up fast and I don’t want to lose anymore moments with him. It’s just time to build on my family.”
Leaving the Rebels is also going to allow Boice to devote more time to NFA. He has received offers to coach several NCAA and Canadian CIS programs but has declined all overtures to refocus on his executive position with NFA.
“I am stepping back from team coaching all together and going back to football program consulting and high-end quarterback development,” Boice said. “There are some tremendous opportunities right now with NFA and my partners (Darin Slack and Dub Maddox) need my focus on supporting our clients. NFA’s new R4 Football Systems are exploding and changing the game of football. Dub and Darin have done an amazing job with R4 and we are preparing to announce some new developments that I am looking forward to building. Darin and Dub and all of NFA Nation have been very supportive of the Rebels’ program and have been patient with me as I dedicated so much time throughout the building process.”
Boice has spearheaded NFA training throughout Canada in recent years and that trend is going to increase.
“I am going to be spending a lot more time on quarterback development in Canada,” he said. “There are some great players and programs up here and I have been hindered by my time commitment to the Rebels. Now I will be more able to focus on those programs, coaches and players. NFA is going to be more aggressive in bringing our quarterback/receiver and passing game systems to Canadian programs. There was a lot of NFA in the Rebel turnaround. A lot! NFA has so much to offer and these Canadian coaches and players deserve the chance to be exposed to it. Getting things going in Canada is a new challenge I am looking forward to.”
If you are interested in attending an NFA Camp in Canada or US or hosting a QB Camp or Clinic, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
When Troy Fisher decided to attend Central Catholic High School in Pittsburgh and play quarterback, he realized it was going to be a daunting challenge.
“I knew I was going to a school where football is the real deal,” Fisher said. “Coming to Central Catholic, I made the decision that I was going to go all in and if I fail, I fail. But I decided to go at it 100 percent.”
Fisher has played football for nine years, and he spent some time at quarterback as he advanced through his eighth grade season. “I didn’t really have any formal teaching or anything,” he said. “My eighth grade year, I was more of a running back type of quarterback. It was more like taking a direct snap and I’d start running.”
A gifted athlete, Fisher was accustomed to getting the football and running wild in his younger days. But after deciding to attend Central Catholic asd a freshman, he knew he needed polish to play QB.
“In June of 2014 I went to my first NFA camp, and that was the start of my drive to be a quarterback,” Fisher said.
After initially training with NFA coach Ron Balog, Fisher attended the last two PSP camps in Pittsburgh and also worked with NFA Founder/President Darin Slack, Michael Slack and Mansur Ivie and headed for the Duel.
“I think my first camp, Coach (Darin) Slack sat down with everyone and I wouldn’t say it was a slap in the face, but reality set in,” Fisher said. “I came from a place where everyone wss saying, ‘He’s this, he’s that. He never did anything wrong.’ NFA has helped me tremendously. I came in probably a little pig headed, but they opened my eyes and now I’m a sponge. I’m open to everything now and I think NFA definitely opened that up. They really stressed the importance of communicating with people and making that a two-way street.”
NFA also helped Fisher develop his quarterback skills, and last year, as a freshman, he started settling in at QB.
This season, the 6-foot-4, 200-pounder won the starting varsity job at Central Catholic, which came in as the top-ranked team Class AAAA (largest division) team in the state of Pennsylvania. In his first game under center for the Vikings, Fisher played very well in a 28-12 win.
“I would say I’ve surprised myself,” Fisher said. “Working so hard, you think, ‘I can do this.’ But it became real that first varsity game. The week prior, they sat us down and said they were going to go with me at quarterback for the first game. I thought we were going to split time. That first week, I just got out there and it dawned on me that I was the guy. I had to gain the respect of all the seniors and that’s what I’ve tried to do.”
Fisher has done all of that and more while helping Central Catholic get off to a 5-1 start. He has completed 47 of 82 passes for 609 yards and 9 touchdowns with no interceptions and rushed for 233 yards and 5 TDs.
“Everything is starting to click and come together,” Fisher said. “I believe in myself now but early on, I have to say I was surprised with how I played.”
Fisher is trying to follow in the footsteps of former Vikings quarterback J.J. Cosentino, who is at Florida State.
And don’t forget about Dan Marino, one of the best quarterbacks to ever play in the NFL. He also prepped at Central Catholic.
“You think of Dan Marino, a Hall of Famer, it’s kind of crazy to think I’m playing at the same school,” Fisher said. “You just kind of think, ‘Wow, it’s a cool thing.’”
If college football recruiters looking for quarterbacks that are difference makers have not yet made their way to Seattle, they soon will be.
There are not one, but two up-and-coming QBs in the Pacific Northwest with NFA ties and incredibly bright futures.
Meet Jacob Sirmon and Zach Lewis, who are both preparing for big sophomore seasons at high schools that won state championships in 2014.
Sirmon attends Bothell High School, and the Cougars captured the Washington Class 4A title last season while going 14-0.
Lewis attends Eastside Catholic High School, and the Crusaders went 13-1 last season while winning the Class 3A state championship.
Even though they were freshmen in the fall, Sirmon and Lewis both got playing time with the varsity and they both threw a touchdown pass.
“It was quite similar to what I’ve always been through,” Sirmon said of suiting up with the varsity. “I went through my reads, through my progressions and went through my coaches, so it wasn’t too big of a jump for me.”
Said Lewis: “Getting that varsity experience, just being on the field and in that atmosphere, it was great. I got a feel for what it was like to play varsity, and it’s different than playing freshman and JV.”
Sirmon got most of his snaps with Bothell’s sophomore team last season, and Lewis played for Eastside Catholic’s JV and freshman teams.
“I started for the freshman and JV teams and I got a decent amount of time with varsity,” Lewis said. “I really liked playing for all three teams. I thought playing freshman and JV, it was good for reps and it was good being in game situations because that’s ultimately what I feel will make you better, just getting as many reps in real game-time situations as you can.”
Even while playing for powerhouse programs, Sirmon and Lewis are working to increase their varsity playing time as sophomores.
J.C. Boice, NFA’s Director of Operations and a Senior Level, C4 Certified Coach, has worked with Sirmon and Lewis since they were young quarterbacks. He is not surprised the duo is already getting college attention at such a young age.
“Jacob has ALL the tangibles,” Boice said. “He is tall, athletic, intelligent, coachable and committed. He also has a supportive family that has a very strong football background. I enjoy working with him because he is so advanced for his age. He’s already played at a national level and has shown he is a kid that you want the ball in his hands when a big game is on the line.
“Because Jacob is so gifted and so supported, I think how far he goes is totally up to him. He is a tough-minded, competitive kid that is also faith based. I expect him to go very far, maybe even playing on Sundays far!”
Boice was equally effusive in his praise for Lewis.
“Zach is one of the greatest playmakers I have ever seen or coached,” Boice said. “Watch him play and he will totally remind you of Johnny Manziel. He is a fierce competitor that is self assured and his natural talent warrants the swagger he has. The only thing holding Zach back is he is not a super tall kid. But college programs that overlook him because of his shorter status will come to regret it. Zach is a winner and can make all the throws.”
Sirmon, who is nearly 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, comes from a football family. His father, David, played college ball at Montana, where he was a linebacker. Both of his grandfathers played college football, and so did five of Jacob’s uncles. One of them, Peter Sirmon, coaches at the University of Southern California.
“Having good size, it’s to my benefit,” Jacob Sirmon said. “It gives me an advantage in the pocket as well as outside. I’m a little harder to bring down and it gives me a good vision of the field. And I have so much support between my dad and my uncle and all my other male relatives that have been through this process before. It’s quite a blessing to have them to talk this through with.”
Jacob Sirmon is already drawing interest from big-time schools like USC, UCLA, Stanford, Washington and Cal.
He was also selected to attend the NFL Player Prep Academy, where 44 freshmen are flown to Philadelphia with a guardian at no expense for four days of leadership training, meeting with Hall of Fame players and other football activities.
Jacob Sirmon is handling all of the early success and attention with veteran poise. “I have so much support around me,” he said. “My head coach, Tom Bainter, he’s great and I run a lot of things through him, as well as my father and God. I feel like with my success, there’s always ups and downs so you kind of just take it as it runs. I think if you keep grinding and keep working, good things will happen. I really feel like I’m blessed with my success so far and I continue to hope to succeed.”
Will Hewlett weighs in
Will Hewlett, who trained Sirmon with NFA and at The Range, is not surprised that the Class of 2018 product is already on such a fast track.
“If you thought about how to construct a quarterback to play the game, Jacob is what you’d look at,” Hewlett said. “He’s got all the pieces physically and mentally. He doesn’t play quarterback like a prima donna. He’s not afraid to lower his shoulder and knock a kid over. He’s very aggressive on the field and he’s big enough and strong enough to make all the throws. Extremely high football IQ.”
While Sirmon is already a big, strong QB, Lewis squeezes every ounce of skill out of his 6-foot, 180-pound frame.
“I can extend plays and make plays,” Lewis said. “I feel that’s one of my best attributes. I feel like that’s a trademark of my game. I can sit in the pocket and throw it, but when it breaks down I can make things happen. I’ll get out of the pocket and make stuff happen.”
Lewis’ incredible knack for making players impresses Hewlett as much as Boice.
“Zach is probably one of the most creative players on the field that I’ve ever coached,” Hewlett said. “He’s one of those kids that always comes up clutch in the moment. He’s just a smooth player. He’s not lightning quick, but he makes people miss and he avoids pressure as good as anyone. He has very recruitable traits for a quarterback. He doesn’t get rattled at all.”
Training with Boice, Hewlett and NFA has helped Sirmon and Lewis develop into standout quarterbacks.
“I really credit NFA with a lot of different things,” Sirmon said. “They were kind of the first that worked with me on fundamental throwing techniques and that really kind of started me off on my path. I’ve done their camps as I’ve grown and they’ve helped me quite a bit as I’ve matured.”
Said Lewis: “NFA was really good for getting the general idea of everything together. They really helped me put the foundation in. They got me to the point where now I can work on the smaller details.”
‘Magic and Larry’
Living in the same area often allows Sirmon and Lewis the opportunity to work together. Not only are they friendly competitors, they push each other to become better quarterbacks.
“I think Zach and Jacob are lucky to be in the same area,” Boice said. “I have told them, ‘Iron sharpens iron,’ and it is rare to have two such highly talented QBs that are the same age from the same place. I think in a few short years they will look back and be very glad they got to compete against each other. They are like Magic Johnson and Larry Bird!”
While they are physically different and play with different styles, Sirmon and Lewis do bring out the best in each other.
“It’s such a blessing to be able to work with Zach on the weekends or whenever we have a chance to work out together,” Sirmon said. “He’s a great competitor, an awesome quarterback and I really respect him and what he’s been doing. It’s really great for us to be able to push each other to be even better. It’s just fun to compete.”
“Me and Jacob have a good relationship,” Lewis said. “We compete to make each other better. It’s not like a fight; we’re not trying to make each other look bad. I honestly feel there are so many D-I colleges that are looking for quarterbacks and me and Jacob have completely different styles of play. If colleges like his style of play they’ll go for him. If they like my style of play they’ll go for me. I think it’s good that we’re pushing each other to make each other better.”
It wasn’t a completely smooth ride, but NFA veteran Blake Phillips has reached his desired destination. The 6-foot-3, 195-pound quarterback is going to play college football.
After missing all but two quarters of his junior year at Kentucky Country Day School in Louisville with a broken wrist, Phillips came roaring back as a senior.
“I definitely made a complete recovery,” said Phillips, who passed for 1,600 yards and 21 touchdowns this past season while guiding the Bearcats to a 6-5 record. “It was no factor in my play at all. I just had to put the injury behind me. For the sake of my team, I had to act like it kind of never happened. I just totally worked my way back from it and came back stronger. I couldn’t feel sorry for myself.”
Before breaking his wrist late in the second quarter of his first game as a junior at Kentucky Country Day, Phillips was drawing interest from big-time college programs like Washington, Georgia, Louisville, Kentucky and Colorado State.
Being out for such a key season proved costly on the recruiting front.
“My biggest challenge was going to college camps and being in the A group,” Phillips said. “But at the end of the day I didn’t have any film and they didn’t take me seriously. Instead of getting invited to all the junior days and all that kind of stuff, I just had to wait until the very end.”
Phillips was hearing from schools that were impressed with his senior season at Kentucky Country Day. “Coming down to signing day, I was listening to Butler, Drake and non-scholarship Division I programs,” he said. “But that’s not really what I was looking for.”
In late January, Phillips heard from a school that piqued his interest. It came from the University of Findlay, a Division II program in Ohio.
“I got a text from a coach at Findlay and he asked me if I could come up and visit,” Phillips said. “I got another text from Urbana (University), which is an hour away from Findlay and another Division II school. I went up and visited Findlay first on a Friday night and I loved the town and I loved the coaching staff. I visited Urbana and I wasn’t as in love with it as I was Findlay. They offered me and I committed the next day.”
Phillips is going to redshirt as a freshman. “They are more about the developmental process,” he said. “They have a great strength coach (Chad Wagner). He said they’d redshirt me – they redshirt almost everyone – and put 20 or 30 pounds on me. It’s a pretty good situation for me. After my redshirt freshman year I probably have a pretty good shot to be under center.”
Phillips, a straight-A student at Country Day, plans on studying Pre-Med. “I am interested in being a lab research doctor, or having a private practice,” he said. “I am really interested in health and holistic medicine.”
NFA set foundation
He is also interested in playing football at the next level, and Phillips gives NFA big credit for helping him reach the goal. He has been training with NFA since the fifth grade.
“They set the foundation for me,” Phillips said. “I’ve been working with Coach (Adam) Britt one-on-one a lot. NFA has helped me with a lot of fundamentals. I’m looking to stay involved with NFA and I think I’m going to do a few college mentor camps coming up soon.”
Jonathan “JoJo” Hillel was a little rusty at the start of this season, and that is quite understandable.
As a junior at Mount Si High in Snoqualmie, Washington, last year, Hillel could typically be found standing on the sidelines when the Wildcats had possession of the football.
Nick Mitchell was Mount Si’s starting varsity quarterback in 2013, and he’s moved on to Oregon State.
That created a spot for Hillel this season, and the 6-foot-2, 180-pounder was not at all satisfied with how it started. “Earlier in the season, I was a little tentative and sometimes, some of the balls I threw, guys were wide open and I was kind of babying the ball in there because I wasn’t sure,” Hillel said. “As I’ve progressed through the season, there’s been a noticable difference. My reads have been cleaner and our team has progressed as well. We’re running everything sharper.
I feel like I’ve grown as a quarterback.”
Hillel has guided the Wildcats to a 5-4 record in the rugged KingCo 4A Conference, which features powerhouse schools like Bothell, Skyline and Newport. Through the Wildcats’ first eight games, he ranked third in the league with 1,562 passing yards and third with 15 touchdowns.
“I learned a lot from (Mitchell),” Hillel said. “But I think the biggest key with this season was getting into my own style. I learned some things from him, but it was importabt to play my style of football.”
And what is your style of football? “This year, we incorporated the zone read for me,” Hillel said. “I have a little bit of athleticism, so I’m able to use that in the offense. I like to run the ball, get outside of the pocket, make plays and find my receivers open downfield.”
Working with NFA since he was in seventh grade, doing private training with JC Boice and even giving back and helping younger QBs at NFA camps have all helped Hillel develop his game.
“When I started with NFA, I was pretty raw,” he said. “I didn’t have much technique and I was getting by on athleticism. The ball was coming out nice, but NFA gave me that extra zip on the ball that colleges are looking for, that extra 10 yards on the ball. They’ve worked with me on some R4 things and given me reads that I haven’t been able to see before. They’ve really benefitted my game and taken it to the next level.”
Also a standout safety on defense, Hillel has been playing quarterback since he was seven years old. “I think the biggest thing I’ve always liked about quarterback is the leadership role,” he said. “Everybody looks up to you and the game’s in your hands. When it comes to down to it, you’re the guy and that’s aways been appealing to me.”
Even though he has just one year of varsity experience under his belt, Hillel has shown he has the skills to compete at the next level. He’a already received a partial scholarship offer from the University of Minnesota-Crookston and is talking to Eastern Washington, Central Washington and Western Oregon. Hillel has taken an unofficial visit to EWU.
“I really hope I can play in college,” he said. “It’s tough for schools to look at me because I only have one year of starting, but hopefully I was able to show enough this year so schools give me a chance. Ever since I came into high school and realized what I wanted to do, having my parents not pay for college would be an awesome thing. I think it would be a huge benefit.”
Josh Jones rises to new challenge
Located in Wilmington, Hoggard High School is one of the top high school football programs in North Carolina.
Under Scott Braswell, who has been the Head Coach for 18 years, the Vikings are 6-0 this season after going 12-2 last year. Hoggard also won the Class 4A state title in 2007 with a 15-0 record.
A few years ago, Josh Jones made the 2 ½ hour drive from his home in Washington, N.C., to Hoggard H.S. to attend a football camp. Over the summer, Jones’ family moved from Washington to Wilmington, and Josh is now a freshman at Hoggard.
If this season is any indication, the Vikings’ powerhouse program is going to be in very good hands over the next few seasons.
“It’s been great,” Josh said. “We moved in June and I got here right when football workouts were starting. It’s a bigger school – Washington is Class 2A – but it’s been great. I love it. Probably the biggest challenge was coming into a new town and meeting everybody, being the new kid. But it all came together really well.”
Even though he’s a freshman, Jones is the starting quarterback for Hoggard’s JV team. He’s fared very well, passing for over 1,000 yards and 8 touchdowns and rushing for 2 more scores while leading the Vikings to a 4-2 record.
“Our team is great,” Jones said. “We have a lot of talent and we really work well together. I have great receivers and a great offensive line. They give me a lot of time to sit back there and read the defense. My goal is for our team to get better and for us to win as many games as we can. I just want to help the program out.”
Nod to NFA
Jones has gotten a lot of help from NFA the past two years in his development at quarterback. “NFA has been a tremendous help,” he said. “Not only have they helped me become a better quarterback, they’ve really helped me a lot with my leadership skills. Overall, they’ve helped me improve with everything.”
In July, Jones attended his second Duel and placed second among incoming freshmen. “I went for the first time two years ago and really liked it,” he said. “To do so well this year, it really boosted my confidence up. It also showed me what I’ve been doing right and what I need to work on.”
As he prepares to take his game to the varsity level, Jones is already taking advantage of his good size. At 6-foot, 160 pounds and still growing, he already stands out in JV competition.
“Being pretty tall for my age, it helps me see over the line and it just gives me a bigger presence on the field,” Jones said. “I just try to use that to my advantage and it’s been working out pretty well.”
Carnagio looks to build on Duel success
Johnny Carnagio has been training with the Quarterback Farm, and when QBF joined forces with NFA earlier this year, the high school sophomore received an invite to last month’s Duel in Massillon, Ohio.
“It was my first time going to the Duel, and all I really knew was it was a quarterback competition,” Carnagio said. “I went into it thinking I want to win because if it’s a competition I want to win, no matter what. And with all the guys that were there, it was fun. It was a lot of fun.”
But it was also a competition, and Carnagio ventured out to Washington High School’s Paul Brown Stadium with his stated goal of being successful. In the Class of 2017 division, Carnagio finished in second place.
“It definitely gives me confidence heading into my season,” he said. “It was nice to see how I stood up against guys from all over the country.”
The 6-foot-2, 180-pounder has been been standing up very well back home in Illinois as well. Even though he’s a sophomore, Carnagio is the starting varsity quarterback at Minooka High School, which is located on the outskirts of Chicago.
Carnagio is looking forward to playing at high school football’s highest level. “I’ve never really played in front of the big crowds and the environment we will be playing in,” he said. “But all the practices are helping me get prepared, the coaches know what they’re doing and everything’s making sense. I can’t wait for the season to start.”
Carnagio was very impressed with his first training session with NFA coaches at the Duel, and he gives QBF Coach Steve Gregory a lot of credit for getting him to the varsity level as a sophomore.
“Coach Gregory really helped me develp into a quarterback,” Carnagio said. “And last year, getting moved up to the sophomore team as a freshman, and this year, being moved up to the varsity as a sophomore, I feel I have the experience and I’m just ready.”
Playing with the sophomore team last season, Carnagio completed 95 of 165 passes for 1,451 yards and 18 touchdowns while leading Minooka to an 8-1 record (7-0 in conference).
As the starting varsity QB this year, he has similar goals. “Obviously, I want to win and I want to win our conference,” Carnagio said. “That’s our team’s main goal, winning conference and going from there. I think it would be great to make the playoffs my first year on varsity just to get myself more prepared for the upcoming years.”
Carnagio is 6-foot-2, 180 pounds, so he has the size and strength to overcome his lack of varsity experience. “To a certain extent, the size is important,” he said. “I’m definitely tall enough to see over the line. But I don’t think that really matters a whole lot. As long as you know what you’re doing, what you’re reading, you have the have the arm strength, I think good size is just an additional bonus.”
With his standout arm strength, Carnagio should thrive in Indians’ spread offense. “I’m always in shotgun,” he said. “And with the spread, we pass more and that’s better for me. There aren’t any five-step drops, so it’s a matter of getting rid of the football as quickly as possible.”
Jacob Sirmon a big talent in Washington
It has been a tremendous past few months for a bumper crop of NFA trained quarterbacks.
Morgan Mahalak is headed to Oregon. JaJuan Lawson is going to New Mexico. John Wolford is headed to Wake Forest. Colby Moore is off to Kansas State. Austin Fort is going to Wyoming. Colby Brown will play his college football at Eastern Illinois.
Right behind that impressive group are highly recruited QBs like Tommy Stevens, JaJuan Jennings, Matt Jimison and Mitch Guadagni. And don’t forget about Brandon McIlwain, who very well could be the top senior prep quarterback in the nation before he graduates from Council Rock North (Pa.) High School in 2016.
Looking even a little farther down the road, keep an eye on Jacob Sirmon, who is in the Class of 2018. Actually, he’s kind of hard to miss.
Already standing nearly 6-foot-3 and weighing in at 193 pounds, Sirmon is already attracting big-time attention after back-to-back standout seasons playing QB for the Bothell Junior Football Varsity Cougars. As a seventh grader two years ago, Sirmon played up a level and led the Cougars to a 10-1 record and championship game appearance while passing for 2,135 yards and 35 touchdowns. He also rushed for 64 yards and threw only 4 interceptions.
This past season, the eighth grader guided the Cougars to an 8-2 record and trip to the semifinals while passing for 1,301 yards and 17 touchdowns while running for 518 yards and 7 more scores. Sirmon capped another big season by quarterbacking FBU Team Washington to the eighth grade finals.
The product of an amazing football family – we’ll get to that in a bit – Sirmon has already figured out how to exploit his great size to succeed under center. “I’m usually one of the biggest guys on the field,” said the 4.0 student at Canyon Park Junior High. “It’s a really a big key as far as having pocket presence. It allows me to see the field and makes it harder for the defense to take me down. Usually, I can use my strength to use the pocket better and break a few tackles if I have to.”
As for his bloodlines, Sirmon’s dad, David, played college football at Montana, where he was a linebacker. Both of his grandfathers played college ball, and so did five of Jacob’s uncles. One of them, Peter Sirmon, coaches defense at the University of Southern California. “It’s in the blood,” David Sirmon said.
Jacob Sirmon feels fortunate to come from a family with so many college football players. “I’m constantly around it,” he said. “At family reunions, we talk about football all the time, talk about old memories, things like that. I’m always around it. With so much of my family having played football, I think I’ve had an advantage knowing the game, knowing the strategies, knowing everything behind it. That’s helped move me along and then I work with my dad, he still has a passion for it. He loves it and he gives me a lot of time and investment going over film or working out. It’s great.”
In a word, Sirmon has a great future at quarterback, and he’ll move up to Bothell High School next season. A powerhouse prep program that went 9-3 last year while ranking No. 5 in Washington state, the Cougars return senior quarterback Ross Bowers in the fall.
The next level
“My goal is I really want to work hard and secure a spot as the second varsity quarterback,” Sirmon said. “It would be nice to have that opportunity as well to play freshman ball with my team and play with my core group of guys. And we have some really great coaches at the freshman level so I look forward to it. I’ll play at whatever level they choose.”
At some point down the road, Sirmon is destined to take over the starting QB job at Bothell and continue advancing toward the college level. “I’ve been playing since I started playing football in first grade,” he said. “I always enjoyed playing quarterback and it was my passion. Ever since then, I’ve been training and working towards trying to be a good quarterback.”
While he prefers putting the ball in the air, Sirmon is developing into a dangerous dual threat. “If I had a preference, I would like to stay in the pocket and pass,” he said. “But I’m not afraid to escape use my legs. That’s was kind of a key part for our offense last season, I would roll out a lot. But definitely throwing is a strength of mine. I feel I can throw pretty well. But I’m not afraid to use my legs. I like to run.”
Achieving so much success and attracting so much attention at such a young age would be difficult to handle for most quarterbacks. But Sirmon works hard to keep everything in perspective.
“I have a couple people I talk to about it, I talk to my dad and my uncle at USC,” he said. “They help me out. And (Bothell) Coach (Tom) Bainter, he’s a great guy. He helps me stay humble and don’t take it all to heart and just keep working, stuff like that. I try to enjoy it and I’m happy about it, but I keep that fire to keep working and keep pursuing it.”
Working with NFA and Coaches Will Hewlett and JC Boice has also helped Sirmon elevate his game. “They’ve been great,” Sirmon said. “They’ve given me a base on my throwing mechanics. Will Hewlett really helps me with my mechanical stuff and JC gets me into the mental stage with reading and progressions, stuff like that.”
Jonathan Hillel of Mount Si High in Snoqualmie, Washington, actually got more time at free safety on defense, and most recently as a starter on the basketball team, than he did last season at quarterback.
Much like NFA standout Morgan Mahalak (Marin Catholic, Kentfield, Calif.), who received an offer from Oregon before starting a varsity game because he was an understudy to current Cal quarterback Jared Goff, “JoJo” as his father Jean Hillel nicknamed him as a baby, has had to be a backup to Nick Mitchell.
Mitchell accepted an offer to Oregon State because of his prowess, so JoJo had to bide his time.
Hillel had to be content with three interceptions including a pick six on defense, and a mop-up role at signal-caller on a team that finished 9-2 and went to the second round of the Washington Boys State Football Championships 3A division eventually won by nationally-ranked Bellevue, perennially the top team in The Evergreen State.
Best back-up in the state
Hillel isn’t where Mahalak was at this stage of his career, and he doesn’t have any offers, but since he began working with NFA Senior Certified Quarterback Instructor and National Lead Camp Coach JC Boice three years ago, and attended 15 NFA camps, he’s more than on the radar screen.
Not only has he impressed Boice, but he has been impressive in several other camps since as early as 2008. As a result he heads to Las Vegas where he’s been invited to participate in next weekend’s Elite 7-on-7 put on by Pylon Elite Camps Football.
“JoJo Hillel was without a doubt the best back-up in the state of Washington last year,” Boice said.
“I expect very big things for JoJo in 2014,” continued Boice. “Aside from being a very good athlete that has all the physical tools, he is also one of the more intelligent young men I have worked with, and his leadership is a very big plus as well. He has a great attitude and kids like being around him.”
“As a quarterback JoJo is tough in the pocket but also has ability to escape and extend plays. He is just a real playmaker. What a lot of college programs are soon going to discover as well is that JoJo is very young. He is going to graduate very young and has a lot of natural maturing to do physically speaking. He is a full year younger than athletes in his class. Give him another year of growth and he is going to be even more explosive.”
Mount Si head coach Charlie Kinnune agrees with Boice about the 6-foot-2 Hillel and his goal of getting to 180-pounds fairly soon and developing more physically with workouts and lifting five days a week.
“He does need to get stronger so he can develop more speed at the point of attack.”
On being a back-up
“Its been tough, especially when the coaches tell me I could start at almost every other school, but Nick is a great quarterback and I’ve watched him and learned from him,” said the 3.2 GPA student-athlete whose favorite subject is U.S. History.
“Now that I’m getting my opportunity I want to prove I’m more than a back-up and I have a lot more to offer,” continued JoJo, who gets his football roots from Jean, an enterprise architect that’s been coaching all levels of football for 25 years and who played at the college level growing up in Quebec.
New rivals and expectations
Snoqualmie, 20-miles southeast of Seattle, is growing, and so has the enrollment at Mount Si. This coming season they are moving up to 4A, so they won’t play Bellevue. Instead, the Wildcats will play Skyline and Eastlake of neighboring Sammamish, and Bothell, all perennial Washington big-school powers.
“Our goal is to win a 4A state title,” JoJo told NFA Nation. “It’s a lot to ask for, and maybe some teams won’t take us seriously, but we’re going to come out every day and make it happen.
Best attributes and what JoJo likes about being a quarterback
“Our system is flexible enough to fit JoJo right in,” Kinnune said. “He’s lanky but very athletic so we’ll put him on the move. His other best attributes are his ability to change direction, a nice touch, and he’s pretty savvy.”
JoJo on the move as a back-up
“I’ve always liked being the quarterback since I began playing at seven,” said JoJo. “You take command of everything. When you win or lose a game it’s on you. You’re the one everyone looks up to when you’re going out there every day and grinding.”
“My favorite player is Chris Schlichting (a 6-5, 270-pound Mount Si lineman). We’ve been best buddies since the second grade. My favorite quarterback is Cam Newton. He’s pretty exciting to watch.”
What NFA and working with Coach Boice has meant
“When I came into NFA I knew nothing about mechanics. They tuned me up.”
“JC has come a long way with me. He always has something new to fix. He’s been very helpful.”
“At camps I’ve talked to a lot of college coaches and now I know going into the college camps I have to show them what they want and what I’ve learned from people like JC.”
“For me it’s about going and getting an education. That comes first. Hopefully the school I choose has a top football program.”
The way JoJo is progressing and impressing people like Boice, chances are a top program very well lies in the future of Jonathan “JoJo Hillel, a back-up no more.
It’s been quite a football season in Seattle. The Seahawks have energized the city and are preparing to play Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl. And a pair of rising young quarterbacks – Ayden Ziomas and Joey Echigoshima – recently wrapped up stellar seasons of their own that culminated with selections to the Team Seattle All-Stars in the FBU National Championships.
The seventh graders were teammates for Team Seattle, and both are veteran NFA campers.
Ziomas had a monster season for the Lynwood (Wash.) Royals in the Senior Division (12-13 year olds), passing for 1,574 yards and 24 touchdowns in nine games while leading his team to the second round of the playoffs. “I was really happy with the season,” said Ziomas, who is never likely to forget one game when he connected on 19 of 20 passes for 320 yards. “I feel like I had a good overall year.”
Ziomas has worked extensively with JC Boice, a Senior Certified Quarterback Instructor and Lead Camp Coach as well as NFA’s Director of Business Development and Strategic Alliances. “I consider Ayden one of the top up-and-coming quarterback prospects in the Pacific Northwest,” Boice said. “He has great natural instincts for the game and as a QB. His poise in the pocket is way beyond his years and he has a good release and strong arm. He also has his head on straight and is not afraid to be a blue-collar quarterback that will grind it out to get better. He is a future star, no doubt about it.”
Taking advantage of Ziomas’ skills at quarterback, the Royals ran a spread offense this past season. “I like it because there are so many different passing options,” Ziomas said. “There are a lot of different route combinations you can run out of the spread and I tried to take advantage of that.”
Playing for the Junior Wolverines J.V. Gold team this past season, which feeds into the Bellevue (Wash.) High School program, Echigoshima led his team to a 9-1 record and berth in the league championship game. “We play a Wing-T offense, so I try to be a dual threat type of quarterback,” said Echigoshima, who passed for 14 touchdowns and ran for 10 more. “As the season went on, I think I got a lot better at throwing on the run.”
Boice raved about the athletic Echigoshima, who also excels in baseball and basketball. “Joey is just a very explosive athlete,” Boice said. “I see him more as a quarterback, but I know he has played both QB and receiver. He has a very strong arm and is a fierce competitor that just loves the game. My biggest worry is that we will lose him to another sport as he is just as accomplished as a baseball player and basketball player. If Joey decides to commit himself to football – and in particular being a quarterback – he will be another powerhouse QB from the Pacific Northwest. He has the skills and the work ethic.”
Echigoshima might be dropping basketball, but he’ll stick with baseball and continue to regard football as his No. 1 sport. “Football and baseball are kind of my two big sports because I travel around out of state with both of them,” he said. Ziomas is getting ready to start playing Arena football, and he’ll continue training for next season in the spring and summer.
Ziomas and Echigoshima were skilled enough to be members of the Team Seattle All-Stars, and they both stepped up and performed against some of the top competition in the United States and Canada. “It was a really good experience,” Ziomas said. “The competition we had to play against was just amazing and the whole team I played on was amazing. It definitely helped me out a lot. Playing against really good competition like that made me a better player.”
Said Echigoshima: “It was a really good experience. I got to play with really good players and we were able to bond, go out of state and go to hotels. I think that was the best part of it. And playing the games was great. It was so much fun to see all of the good teams from all over the nation.”
With so much talent on hand, both players had to split time at quarterback, while Echigoshima was also a starting wide receiver. Team Seattle beat Oregon and British Columbia in Washington, and then traveled to Sacramento and beat all-star teams from Utah and Orange County (Calif.). Moving on the Final Four in the nation, Team Seattle journeyed to San Antonio and lost to teams from Iowa and Indiana.
“I thought it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had playing football,” Echigoshima said. “I learned a lot and had a lot of fun playing against so many good teams.”
Blake Phillips ready to resume rolling
When Blake Phillips steps under center for Kentucky Country Day School in Louisville next season, most observers are going to expect him to be a little rusty. After all, the 6-foot-4, 210-pound quarterback basically missed his entire junior year after breaking his wrist in the Bearcats’ first game.
“The wrist is 100 percent now,” Phillips said. “I’ve been throwing and the ball’s coming out pretty well. I’ve been lifting and I’m back up to normal strength. And the camp definitely helped me push the limit a little bit.”
Phillips was one of 19 quarterbacks invited to NFA’s first annual OpC4 camp held in Tampa from January 1-4. Designed and executed by NFA Founder/President Darin Slack and Coaches Will Hewlett, Dub Maddox and Reid Roe, OpC4 (short for Operation C4) is built on the four key words that NFA believes reflect the best attributes of great quarterbacks and great men: Confidence, Character, Consistency, and Commitment.
‘A great experience’
“It was a great camp,” Phillips said. “It was something that I’m probably not going to get to experience ever again in my life. We got to do things and see things that other people never get to see. The workouts we went through, they showed us how to get through adversity. We learned some really important things we can bring back to our teams in the fall. It showed us the work we have to put in to get ready for the season. It was a really good building block, a great experience.”
Even with the lengthy layoff, Phillips showed why he is expected to have a stellar senior season for Kentucky Country Day School at the OpC4 camp. “There are few words to describe the massive improvement of Blake,” Coach Slack said. “At 6-foot-4, he has the frame to play college ball. But at this camp, I saw the kind of throws, arm strength and leadership that is evidence of his growth as a legitimate next-level player.”
Despite sitting out most of last season, Phillips is on the radar of colleges ranging from Washington, Georgia, Louisville, Kentucky and Colorado State. Toledo, Ohio University, Western Michigan, Georgia State and Hillsdale College are also expressing interest. “I’m enjoying the whole process,” Phillips said. “It’s fun.”
Phillips is really going to be enjoying himself when he gets back on the field and resumes playing a sport he’s loved for nearly a decade. “I’m pretty anxious,” he said. “I missed the whole year of doing football stuff. Coming from a quarterback it might sound weird, but I want to hit somebody. I’m just ready to get back to it.”
Injury can’t slow Blake Phillips
Blake Phillips has been playing football for over half of his life, a total of nine years. That’s more than enough experience to understand the physical nature of the sport and, ideally, be able to handle adversity.
Primed for a monster junior season at Kentucky Country Day School in Louisville after spending the 2012 season behind one of the top quarterbacks in the state (Robert Scholtz, now a preferred walk-on at the University of Kentucky), Phillips broke his wrist right before halftime in the Bearcats’ first game of the year.
Phillips missed the rest of the season with the injury, but his future remains very bright. “It’s a tough game,” Phillips said. “But the injury will help me in the long run. I’ll have a good off-season and I’ve already started training. I’m easing back in, but I’ll be ready for next year. I’ll be 100 percent around Christmas-time.”
Big-time college interest
Had he played the 2013 season, Phillips would likely be sifting through a pile of collegiate offers this winter. But being sidelined hasn’t slowed interest in the 6-foot-3, 205-pound QB. Phillips made an unofficial visit to the University of Washington in October and was on the sidelines for the Huskies’ big game against Oregon. Georgia, Louisville, UK and Colorado State are among the many other schools interested.
“I’m enjoying it,” Phillips said of the recruiting process. “So far, the experience has been good and they’ve been respectful of my privacy and things like that. I’m really looking forward to playing again next season, I’m anxious to get back. But I’ll take it one step at a time. I don’t want to try making too fast of a recovery and risk another injury. I’ll take my time coming back and make sure I’m ready to go.”
To prepare for what should be a banner senior season, Phillips has already started lifting weights four times a week and he cross-trains three times a week. Once a week, he works with acclaimed speed coach Christian Adair, and Phillips’ goal is to be running a 4.6 40-yard dash when the summer rolls around.
He’s also been working with NFA since the fifth grade. “They are the difference makers,” Phillips said. “Without NFA, I probably wouldn’t even be playing quarterback, to be honest with you. They’ve helped me with everything dealing with football and with everyday life.”
Phillips will head for Florida in January for more intense work with NFA Coaches Darin Slack, Will Hewlett, Dub Maddox and Adam Britt.
Film link for Phillips: