Francis adjusting to starting role
September 15, 2011
LITTLE ROCK Most around the Harding Academy program saw what they had in Will Francis, maybe even before Francis himself.
Playing backup to quaterback Seth Keese for the past two seasons, Francis was, by coach Roddy Mote's admission, "a great sophomore quarterback" for the Wildcats who took occasional snaps behind Keese in varsity games.
But it wasn't until the Wildcats played Heber Springs last season that Mote and the team truly knew what they had in the 6-4, 193-pounder.
"He ended up playing in several (varsity) games for us," Mote said. "He really played a big role. He came in against Heber Springs last year and ended up moving our offense and kind of got us back in it late."
The Wildcats eventually fell, but Francis showed the team he was able to take over for Keese, who led Harding Academy to a Class 3A state finals appearance last season, when it was time. Now it is and the junior isn't disappointing.
Keese has graduated, now on the team at neighboring Hardin University. After throwing for 589 yards and four touchdowns last season in limited playing time in 2010, Francis is already 47-for-79 for 507 yards and six touchdowns through two games this season.
"Its a big role to fill," Francis said. "Seth was a great football player, he really led us last year and but he had a great year and he put us in a great spot to be successful and he helped me to get to the point where I am now."
The Spread attack hasn't seemed to slack much under Francis' control, with the Wildcats averaging 25 points per game for the 1-1 squad. In a Week 1 victory over Fountain Lake, Francis went 23-31 for 280 yards and two touchdowns with one interception in the 23-20 victory, his first as a starter. In their 49-27 loss at Heber Springs last Friday, Francis threw for 227 yards and four touchdowns.
He's assumed the leader role for the offense, a place that Mote says fits Francis because of not just his play, but his actions. Because the team doesn't have managers, Mote said Francis will help the junior high team prepare the water for their practices prior to the varsity's practice.
Francis is a three-sport athlete for Harding Academy, playing shortstop on the baseball team and guard in basketball, the latter of which he's coach by his father, Brad, who from a football standpoint, thinks waiting his turn did nothing but help his son.
"I think it was great last year for him to get to sit behind Seth and learn," Brad Francis said. He had a year to learn...it was a nice transition year (in 2010) to learn without having any pressure on him. He got a large amount of snaps that when he got out there (this season) he felt confident."
The confidence isn't the only thing driving Francis, who grew up watching the tradition of stellar quarterbacks come through Harding Academy and knows he has two years to leave his mark.
I'm just trying to keep it up for the next two years and hopefully help set it up for the players younger than me to come in after."
But if you ask Mote, the greatest part of Francis' character doesn't come on the field. After their loss to Heber Springs, Mote said he received a sincere text from Francis.
"It said, 'Coach, I love you,'" Mote said. "I texted back, you know, 'I love you too.' And I was talking to my dad who's on the staff with me, and we were saying what a 45-year old and a 67-year old man can learn from a kid."