FARMINGTON — Some football experts say one way to judge a quarterback's confidence is to watch his feet when he's standing in the pocket, not his arm. When they say a quarterback has "happy feet," it's not a compliment.
When he's standing in the pocket, Jordan Whitney's feet aren't happy. They give away nothing. The statue atop your hometown Civil War monument isn't any more stationary or upright.
The difference between ol' Jebediah and the Mt. Blue senior quarterback is that when the latter needs to move his feet, he can do it with the dexterity few running backs possess. Whether it's a designed play or having to cut-and-run on the rare occasion that his protection breaks down, Whitney can get his feet moving in a hurry.
Heading into Saturday's Class B championship against Marshwood (6 p.m., Fitzpatrick Stadium), he is averaging eight yards per carry. That's even factoring in sacks and kneel-downs from the victory formation, which the Cougars have had to do frequently.
Whitney's legs have been a more important part of Mt. Blue's potent offense this year. Coach Gary Parlin limited his role in the running game last year because Whitney was coming off surgery to repair a torn ACL suffered during basketball season.
With the quarterback's return to full health, Parlin saw the potential for Whitney to frustrate defenses stacked up to stop running back Chad Luker. Whitney quickly showed he was prepared to beat defenses even when they were designed to stop him.
"The games that were our closest games, the Leavitt game, the Gardiner game, he carried the ball a lot more," Parlin said. "He has gotten us some of our toughest yards. He just has a way of making people miss."
Whitney made Waterville tacklers miss more often than not in last week's PTC championship game, rushing for 99 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries.
He has noticed how calling his own number on counters and misdirections has added another dimension to the offense and made defenses pay for stacking up to stop his running backs, the bruising Luker and slashing Calan Lucas.
"This year it's much better. Teams have to key on me running, too, so then we can hand it off to Chad or Calan. It's a whole different ballgame," Whitney said.
It's when his feet are planted firmly on the ground and his arm is in motion that Whitney can still be at his most electrifying. His easy, almost nonchalant delivery of the football shows great confidence in his blocking but belies a strong and accurate arm that can fire a laser to a receiver on an out pattern or go over the top of the defense and perfectly place the ball into a striding receiver's hands.
With junior and senior seasons topping the 2,000-yard, 25-touchdown plateaus, Whitney may be Class B's best hope for the Fitzpatrick Trophy, normally a stronghold for Class A players. Whitney, however, dismisses any such assertions.
"Football is football. I just do my thing and play my game," Whitney said.
Three years as a starting QB and one as a topic for Fitzy fodder might make some kids' heads get big, but not Whitney.
"He is still so unassuming," Parlin said. "Most quarterbacks are cocky kids, and there's not a cocky bone in his body. He's just so much fun to coach."
Whitney threw an interception late in the first half of last week's game that was returned for a touchdown and got Waterville back into the game. He didn't throw a single pass in the second half, and some wondered if Parlin had lost faith in his quarterback.
Quite to the contrary, Parlin said. The Cougars were running the ball at will on the Purple Panthers. He said the play-calling had nothing to do with the pick six, and if Whitney needs to throw the ball a lot to beat Marshwood, that's what he'll do.
"He didn't throw the interception. The coach's play threw the interception. I have all the faith in the world in him," Parlin said. "There's not been many more quarterbacks here who I trust more, trust to make the right decision and trust that he's going to will himself to make a play."
Whitney making plays this Saturday could lead to Mt. Blue's first state championship since 1980 and what he sees as a fitting conclusion to his remarkable season.
"That would be just the way I wanted to go out," Whitney said. "This year has been just how I want my senior year to be, and one more would be great."