After an early season win over Effingham County, the Lakeside High School football team has claimed a lead in the Region 2-AAAA standings. Not bad for a team that spent most of the offseason trying to figure out who would lead the offense.
Lakeside seniors Chris Drayton and Travis Azar are in the Athlete Spotlight.
Photo by J. Scott Trubey
"Going into this season, we didn't know who would be quarterback," Lakeside senior Travis Azar said.
Azar, along with teammate Chris Drayton, shared time at QB last season in the shadow of senior starter Jimmy Johnson. Late into the 2004 campaign, the lifelong friends knew they were in for a quarterback battle.
Fortunately, the two were already friends.
"I've known him since seventh grade," Drayton said. "We go back to middle school ball."
As starters at Lakeside Middle four years ago, the two teammates were hardly ready for a quarterback war. Drayton started at running back while Azar was a nose guard.
Through the years, the two Panthers have made the transition to varsity football and now start on both sides of the ball for Lakeside along with fellow senior Andrew Hedman and junior Kyle Hill. Last summer, the coaches had to choose a starting quarterback between two able, willing, and talented football players.
The battle for the spot forced Azar and Drayton to take their game to the next level.
"He'd make a good play, then I had to go out and try to top him." Azar said.
In the end, Drayton took the first snaps to open the season this year. As a result, Azar has proven his worth at almost every skill position on the field.
As a quarterback, Azar filled in nicely in Lakeside's win over Greenbrier in which Drayton had to leave the game due to leg cramps.
Azar also leads the team averaging almost five yards per carry with two touchdowns on 74 yards rushing. The senior has also seen time at receiver.
Azar's ability to excel at several different positions comes from training this summer at QB.
"As a quarterback, you're supposed to know every position on the field," he said.
According to head coach Randy Hill, the past summer's workouts weren't exactly a quarterback battle. As both Drayton and Azar continued to show their QB talents, Hill said both players ended up winning out.
"We knew both of them were going to split time," Hill said. "One of them does some things a little better than the other, and vice versa."
The end result is a luxury most coaches can only dream of. The coaching staff can choose the quarterback who best suits the Panthers' situation on the field. When coach Hill needs his QB to read the defense or run the option, Azar is the man for the job. When the team needs a QB to avoid a blitz with quick feet and a strong, accurate arm, Drayton's number is called.
"Each has their own niche," coach Hill said.
"It's like a chess game."
Despite their different quarterbacking skills, both said their success comes from their teammates.
"They don't get enough credit," Drayton said. "They execute and do their assignments. They're the reason we're good."
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