Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – Among the biggest on-field questions facing Mitch Moore when he took over the City High football program was at quarterback.
Entering last season City High had graduated a three-year starter in Raph Hamilton and didn’t have a player on its roster that had started a game under center.
As year two of the Moore era gets underway perhaps the greatest strength for the Little Hawks is at quarterback.
Juniors Drew Larson and Quinton Tran flourished in a quarterback role share last season combining to throw for 2,271 yards and 26 touchdowns as City High went 10-2 and reached the Class 5A semifinals.
Larson and Tran return improved and more experienced in 2022 as City High attempts to build on its resurgent 2021 season.
“We have figured out a system with two elite leaders and two really, really good quarterbacks and a bunch of good coaches around them to utilize them both, keep people on their toes and keep pressure off our quarterbacks,” Moore explained.
A true quarterback rotation is rare at any level.
The saying that gets tossed around anytime a team uses two quarterbacks is “if you have two quarterbacks you have none.”
Moore is familiar with the expression and has a simple response.
“I just say to those people, ‘it worked pretty dang good last year’,” Moore said with a smile. “I argue this is we have helped both those guys mature and grow because of the two-quarterback system.”
Playing two quarterbacks wasn’t the original plan for Moore who said last season he wanted to settle on a starter.
Instead, he settled on two.
Tran and Larson split time in the opener against Liberty High and a week two win over Cedar Rapids Jefferson.
Two games both had been too good to not play.
“They both had too many intangibles to say they aren’t the guy,” Moore said. “They both just kept working on their craft, working on their craft.”
Suddenly what started as a quarterback competition in fall camp turned into a quarterback collaboration.
“We just make each other better every day,” Tran said. “We are working as one because we want what is best for the team and us rotating right now is what we need.”
The two-quarterback system is unique.
Tran and Larson split series almost 50-50 a year ago.
What is even more exceptional is the two players handling the quarterback duties.
Tran played some quarterback in flag football growing up but hadn’t spent time at the position in junior high or as a high school freshman.
Outside of a few snaps as a ‘wildcat’ quarterback Larson had never played the position until this sophomore season.
Combined the two are leading a top-10 Class 5A program each in their own unique way.
“Quinton just has a tremendous knack for the game and control of the huddle,” Moore said. “Drew has got immense arm talent, as good as there is, and he has only played the quarterback position for 13 months.”
Larson and Tran each have their own specific skill but both share a few important intangibles.
Both are extremely competitive, both work extremely hard and both prioritize winning over anything else.
“They just want to win,” City High senior receiver Akili Mattox said. “We could win by 40 points and those guys would want to go out and throw after morning lifting. They are both amazing.”
Tran and Larson work as a team but they are competitive with each other which helped both improve during the offseason.
“I think it works really well because we both push each other as hard as we can,” Larson said. “Neither of us can sit back and relax we both have to keep working on every aspect.”
In some quarterback time shares there is a running quarterback and a throwing quarterback.
That isn’t the case at City High where Tran and Larson each have dual threat skillsets.
“I think that it’s very confusing for a defense when they see how similar but different we are,” Tran said. “I think it’s hard to prepare for.”
The 5-foot-10, 170-pound Tran completed 74 percent of his passes for 925 yards and 10 touchdowns while rushing for 187 yards and a score last season.
Larson, a 6-foot-1, 175-pounder threw for 1,346 yards and 16 touchdowns with a 63 percent completion percentage and rushed for 103 yards and a touchdown.
“They both can do a lot of stuff which is the secret,” Moore said. “They both have a lead in some characteristic over the other and they feed off each other with that. This guy can do this a little better, than I am going to try to get better at that.”
For both players the offseason was spent working on improving specific areas.
Tran said he worked on vision and arm strength. Larson, a three-sport athlete, worked on strength and speed.
“Mostly I just worked on getting bigger and stronger and faster because that’s what I needed but I’ve also worked with people on throwing and done some camps,” Larson said. “For the most part I focused on getting bigger and stronger.”
Now the two will come together to attempt to lead City High back to the UNI-Dome.
“Losing that last game of the season isn’t fun and we know what we have to do to get back there,” Larson said. “We know how much work it takes to get past that.”