Spruce Mountain quarterback Jack Bryant poses for a photo before practice Thursday. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

LIVERMORE FALLS — One of the reasons Spruce Mountain’s coaches have given senior Jack Bryant more freedom within their spread option offense over the course of his two-year stint as the starting quarterback is his ability to see the whole field.

Bryant’s teammates have grown to trust him more, too, in part because he can usually put himself in their shoes.

“That’s what makes the offense really run … Guys have faith in the quarterback,” Spruce Mountain coach David Frey said.

Thanks to Bryant, Spruce’s offense usually runs like a well-oiled machine, averaging more than 30 points per game since the start of last season.

Frey had little doubt Bryant was the one to be handed the keys to the offense, following standouts who have run the Phoenix offense such as Peter Theriault, Caulin Parker and Brett Frey.

“He’s just one of those natural athletes. It’s instinct. You can’t coach it,” David Frey said. “And having the knowledge of the game helps. He sees the whole field.”

Despite his athleticism and high football IQ, Bryant had reason to think he wouldn’t be next in line for signal-calling duties as he grew up watching his predecessors. He played virtually everything from fullback to wide receiver over the course of his subvarsity career.

“Quarterback has been what I love to do, but I also got to play a bunch of other positions coming up,” Bryant said. “I was pretty much like a utility player and so I had a lot of options.”

Bryant noted that it didn’t hurt that he had a lot of options surrounding him when he stepped in as a junior.

“We had tons of other weapons last year with Tate (Walton), Kayle (Stewart) and (Zach) Toothaker, and we seemed to mesh pretty well,” he said. “And I knew — because I’d been playing a lot of other positions, I knew the role of each guy.”

Bryant still had to take what he knew and apply it to what the coaches wanted him to do.

“We’ve got a lot where he’s got to read,” Frey said.

“I have all of the confidence in him,” Frey added. “I’ve always told him any time he’s out there and wants to change something, I have the confidence in him.”

Bryant’s ability to make adjustments at the line of scrimmage makes his top weapon this year, fellow senior Brandon Frey, more dangerous.

The Phoenix move the speedy Frey around to create matchups in their favor, which they did last week when they rallied twice in the fourth quarter to defeat Poland 38-35 on two long Frey touchdowns, one a receiving score from Bryant.

Spruce Mountain quarterback Jack Bryant poses for a photo before practice Thursday. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“He’s a big speed threat so any time we can find a way to get him into open space, it’s definitely something we’ve got to take advantage of,” Bryant said.

Coach Frey refers to Bryant and Brandon Frey, his son, as the “two-headed monster.”

“If you lock in on him, you’ve got another guy that can hurt you,” he said.

Bryant can hurt opponents not only with his arm but also his legs and power. He has the speed to break big plays outside, but also the size (6-foot, 185 pounds) to run between the tackles.

“What I like is he’s a tough runner inside,” David Frey said.

Again, Bryant credited his utility background for helping make him a complete runner.

“I’m pretty fortunate being a little bit bigger and usually being able to shed a tackle or two up the middle,” he said. “I feel like it helps the team and it just gives us another option.

“I played fullback for a couple of years in middle school and that really taught me how to protect the ball, keep your legs high and stay low,” he added. “I think being able to stack all those attributes up and put it into the quarterback position helps the team.”

Despite being at the controls and an integral part of such an explosive offense, Bryant frequently gets overlooked in discussions of the top quarterbacks in Class D, which tend to focus on peers such as Oak Hill’s Gavin Rawstron or Keegan Choate of Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale.

Bryant, who was an all-conference second-team selection for the Phoenix basketball team last year, is fine with flying under the radar.

“I kind of don’t mind being overlooked,” he said. “Expectations are lower and when we rise to the occasion, it catches people off guard and it kind of feels better.”

Bryant and the Phoenix will be lying low this weekend, though not voluntarily. Friday night’s game at Dirigo was canceled after Dirigo forfeited the remainder of its varsity schedule due to low numbers.

Though sympathetic, he was thankful he doesn’t have to put himself in someone else’s shoes for once.

“We’d just gotten through our stretching (on Wednesday) when Coach called us over and told us,” Bryant said. “Everybody was just in shock. It’s sad to see. It’s one less game for us to play, and for (Dirigo players) … I can’t imagine.”

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