IN THE SPOTLIGHT
John Sakos’ timing on the play was impeccable — and precise.
It was Seiko-watch good.
His perfectly timed long pass — a beautiful ball that went over the top and sailed directly into the safe-landing hands of the kid they call ‘Q’ (Quentin Griffin) — went for 44 yards and a first down.
It was spiral-iffic.
Even after a tough loss, a play like that goes into the “prettiest play you ever did see” file.
The final score may not be indicative, but the combined quarterback play in Highland Park’s 40-7 loss to visiting Hersey (2-1) on Sept. 8 was exemplary.
Give the gold to Hersey’s Owen Goldsberry.
Sakos gets the shiny silver.
While Division I prospect Goldsberry was unstoppable (255 rushing yards, TD runs of 48 and 71 yards and 103 passing yards), HP’s Sakos was very good. The senior QB completed 22 of 32 passes for a career-high 223 yards. He had his team on the move most of the night. Eleven of his tosses went for 10 yards or more.
“I’m just trying to put the ball in the right people’s hands,” said Sakos, who won the QB job midway through the 2016 season.
Down 26-7, Sakos and Griffin went a little off script on that 44-yard pass play early in the fourth quarter. The call in the huddle was a 10-yard out to Noah Spitz.
But, before sprinting out and lining up on the same side as Spitz, Griffin made a quick plea to his QB.
You know the one: I’ll be open, get me the ball.
“We had just run the same play,” said Sakos. “Quentin told me that he could beat the cornerback.”
So, when Spitz drew the safety over and was unable to break free, Sakos went to Plan B.
He threw to ‘Q’.
“I just lobbed it up and watched him run under it,” Sakos said.
He lofted the pinpoint pass into a fairly small window. Griffin was tackled almost immediately.
“It was pretty much a get-open play,” said Griffin. “Nothing special. Just beat your man.
“John threw it perfectly,” ‘Q’ added. “I was just hoping not to drop it.”
Not on this night.
The 6-foot, 165-pound Griffin, a two-way starter, had the game of his life. The senior not only caught a career-high seven passes for 95 yards, but he also led the team in tackles (9).
“Quentin showed up tonight,” Sakos said. “It was good to see him shine like that. He’s been waiting for an opportunity to show off his skills.
“He’s big, lanky,” the QB added. “He can go up and get it.”
Meanwhile, Sakos has turned into a rock-steady quarterback. A third baseman for the HP baseball team, he has displayed an accurate arm and good pocket presence this fall. In three games, he’s completed 42 of 73 attempts for 628 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.
“I like his toughness, and he gives us great leadership,” said HP head coach Joe Horeni.
“And tonight, I thought he hung in there pretty well,” the coach added. “Hersey brought a lot of pressure. And we didn’t have one of our big-time players, Kevin Kaufman, in there [due to injury].”
Sakos’ toughest moment came midway through the third quarter, when the Huskies’ pass rush got to him. He not only got sacked for six yards, but he also fumbled on the play.
Two possessions later, Sakos turned the tide somewhat when he was forced out of the pocket and scrambled for 27 yards. He extended the play an extra 10 yards by negotiating the sideline with a tight-rope maneuver.
Fancy footwork, indeed.
“I’m not really considered the running type,” Sakos admitted. “I feel pretty good about that play.”