Holmes at the Helm
Sep 30, 2016 03:19PM
● By Ashley Pape
Mason Holmes still remembers the butterflies in his stomach before his first varsity football game as the starting quarterback at Southlake Carroll.
Just a week earlier, senior Montana Murphy got the call in the season opener against Austin Westlake. But on this night, it was Holmes’ time to shine.
And boy, did he ever.
Holmes completed 26 of 39 passes for 336 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions as he led Southlake Carroll to a 34-30 come-from-behind victory over traditional Oklahoma powerhouse Tulsa Union.
“It was the craziest, most fun thing I’ve ever done,” Holmes says. “Going into the game, I wouldn’t say I was nervous, but I was anxious and excited. We were down at halftime, but by then, the nerves had calmed down, and then we balled in the second half.
“We came back and won the game. Doing that gave me so much confidence, and I think it gave the team a lot of confidence in me. It was huge. Coming home from that was the best night ever. It was awesome.”
Holmes and Murphy were involved in a heated quarterback battle last offseason. Murphy was named the starter two days before the Austin Westlake game but an inconsistent performance and a shoulder injury paved the way for Holmes to take over.
He was officially named the starter the following Monday and never looked back.
This offseason, there was no battle. Holmes finished his junior year, throwing for 2,899 yards and 38 touchdowns with just five interceptions and established himself as one of the leaders on the team.
“You won’t find a finer young man than Mason Holmes,” says Southlake Carroll head coach Hal Wasson. “He’s bigger, stronger and faster than a year ago. Obviously, he is a lot more confident. I just think he is going to have a really big year for us.“The guys really look up to him. Some guys want it, and some guys hope to get there. But Mason really embraces it. He’s a tremendous leader for our football team.”
Holmes was named a team captain going into his senior campaign and has lived up to his role.
“I think if you ask anybody in our locker room who the leader of the team is, they would say me, Ryan Miller and Carson Green,” Holmes says. “I’m a vocal leader. I’m not afraid to yell at guys. But I think leading by example is the biggest thing. What you do off the field and in the classroom is important.”
And that’s had a positive affect on the Dragons. Senior running back Jack Johansson says Holmes is a great role model for his teammates.
“Mason is that perfect little boy you want as a parent,” Johansson says. “Everybody loves him. He leads everyone. I would say he is the leader of the team. He’s just a great guy. There is nobody else like him.”
Holmes is the first one to admit that being a leader also means going above and beyond what is asked of you.
Holmes worked with his team in the weight room and on the field throughout the offseason, but he didn’t just shower and go home after workouts. Instead, Holmes spent extra time in the film room trying to perfect his craft.
“Since January, I spent a lot of time in the film room going over more in-depth reads,” Holmes says. “I went over some coverage stuff. Really, it’s been all about the film room. I think that’s the best thing for me because it’s the mental part of the game.”
And that’s also transitioned to the physical aspect of his game.
Wasson says Holmes has progressed immensely as a quarterback since the beginning of last year and believes his senior signal-caller is in store for an even bigger season.
“I would say he has really improved this offseason in his pocket presence,” Wasson says. “He’s very confident back there. Just watching him practice and the way he works, I think he’s going to have a special year.”
Expectations are higher than ever for Holmes, and the pressure to excel at Southlake Carroll can be overwhelming at times. After all, Holmes is following the footsteps of some of the best quarterbacks the state of Texas has ever seen.
From Chase Daniel to Kenny Hill, the Dragons have a rich tradition of producing major college and NFL quarterbacks. Is Holmes next in line?
That question remains to be answered, but Holmes is definitely ready to protect the tradition and handle the gravity of the situation.
“That’s huge,” Holmes says. “There is a wall with pictures of all the quarterbacks that have come through here like Chase Daniel, Greg McElroy, Kenny Hill and Ryan Agnew. It gets your attention and makes you want to keep up the legacy and match what the guys before you have done. To have the opportunity to do that is a huge honor.”
Holmes, however, is ready to craft his own legacy.
With Lil’Jordan Humphrey off to Texas and Zach Farrar suiting up for Oklahoma, this is truly Holmes’ team. He is one of only a handful of returning starters on the offensive side of the ball for Southlake Carroll, and it’s clear the offense will run through him.
“It’s going to be important for him to find a bigger identity in this offense this year,” Wasson says. “I anticipate him being very productive with his arm and his feet. He has trained just for that.”
Holmes is confident in his abilities as well and is ready for the challenge.
“Honestly, I think I’m a lot more ready than last year,” Holmes says. “Zach and LJ were great players, but I have 10 times more confidence this year. So while we don’t have all the same weapons, I feel confident in myself and the guys around me.”
Holmes completed 67 percent of his 239 pass attempts last season and is a pass-first quarterback. But this year will be a little different.
With Humphrey and Shemar Coleman out of the picture, Holmes will also be asked to run the ball. Last season, Holmes notched just 57 yards on the ground.
“The week after we got knocked out of the playoffs, Coach Wasson came up to me and told me to get my running shoes ready,” Holmes says. “I’m actually really excited about that. I only had two run plays called for me all year last year, so I’m ready.”
Whether it’s running or passing the ball, Holmes is Southlake Carroll’s primary offensive weapon. While the unit as a whole is young and full of new faces, the Dragons’ offense has a chance to be downright explosive if Holmes can step up to the plate.
It might be unfair to say the team will go as far as Holmes will take them. But that’s the weight a Southlake Carroll quarterback carries on his shoulders. Holmes knows that and has set lofty expectations for himself and the team.
“Obviously, the big goal is to win state,” Holmes says. “But our immediate goal is to win the next game. For myself, I want to have 2,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards. That’s the standard at Carroll. A great quarterback should at least have that.”