FSHS, LHS quarterbacks display growth at summer camp

photo by: Shane Jackson

Free State junior Malik Berry runs through the Lawrence High defense during a Baker football camp Tuesday, June 12, 2018, at LHS. Berry, who played safety as a sophomore, is expected to be the starting quarterback for the Firebirds this fall.

Both Free State and Lawrence High will have new signal callers this fall.

Junior Malik Berry is expected to start under center for the Firebirds, while senior Garrett Romero and sophomore Tre’ Jackson will take snaps for the Lions in the 2018 campaign. All three new quarterbacks showed flashes of their potential during the Baker football camp Tuesday at LHS.

The two city schools competed in the camp along with St. Thomas Aquinas, Bishop Miege and Shawnee Mission South. The programs took turns taking reps on both offense and defense during the scrimmage, in which players wore shoulder pads and helmets with shorts.

“They don’t get much better than the teams we were playing today,” FSHS head coach Bob Lisher said. “It gives everybody a lot of reps. We can look at that on film, and see where we need to improve. When you get that many reps, there are going to be a lot of things you can work on.”

The number of reps are especially important for Berry, who didn’t get many looks at quarterback during his sophomore year.

Berry started at safety on Friday nights for Free State, which went 10-1 before an overtime loss to Derby in the 6A quarterfinals. As a result, Berry didn’t get the opportunity to play quarterback at the junior varsity level.

“He’s passing the eye test,” Lisher said. “Now, we just have to get him to make the right reads all the time and put the ball on target. Same stuff that we always have problems with this time in June. I think he’s going to be able to handle it.”

Berry, who is 6-foot-3, has still made massive strides at the new position over the course of the offseason. Berry is starting to grasp the offensive concepts, as he prepares to replace Gage Foster under center.

During the camp, Berry registered a number of noteworthy plays on the offensive end. He made correct reads on option runs, showing his knack for making plays with his feet. Berry also connected on multiple deep routes, demonstrating his arm strength against some quality defensive programs.

Most of all, Berry made his presence felt when things went wrong on the offensive end.

“I just need to be a leader,” Berry said. “After a bad throw, I have to keep my head up and get ready for the next play. You have to be able to carry your team when things are going downhill.”

The Lions, meanwhile, had two different players split reps at quarterback in the camp.

Both signal callers will have the opportunity to see the field after Dante Jackson, who is playing at Northern Colorado, graduated this past spring. Jackson earned co-Most Valuable Player honors in the Sunflower League, racking up 1,215 rushing yards and 974 passing yards with a combined 25 touchdowns.

“I think they both will have a chance to play,” said Steve rampy, LHS’ first-year head coach. “There is so much pressure in what we do offensively on the quarterback. They are going to have time to come off and think about it.”

Tre’ Jackson, who is the younger brother of Dante, has had to make the transition from playing at the freshman level to going up against varsity defenses. Last season, Jackson was the same size as everyone, but now he sometimes can’t see over the offensive line.

photo by: Shane Jackson

Lawrence sophomore Tre’ Jackson hands the ball off to the running back during a Baker football camp at LHS Tuesday, June 12, 2018. After playing on the freshman team last season, Jackson has a chance to see some varsity action this fall.

Still, Jackson managed to make a number of plays with his feet when he was on the field Tuesday.

“My strength is my running,” Jackson said. “I’m a really fast dude, so running is my biggest thing. Finding my teammates is a good thing for me, too.”

Jackson has leaned on the guidance of his older teammates, including Romero, to help him get adjusted to this level.

Romero started the season opener for the Lions last fall, completing 7 of 11 passes for 110 yards and three scores in a 42-41 win over Shawnee Mission Northwest. Romero also filled in at running back and receiver when needed, though he mostly played quarterback for the junior varsity team.

“It’s pretty scary on Friday night with all the lights and fans,” Romero said. “Just having that one game helps a lot.”

photo by: Shane Jackson

Lawrence High senior Garrett Romero throws to a receiver during the Baker football camp at LHS Tuesday, June 12, 2018. Romero, who started the season opener for the Lions last season, will look for more playing time this fall.

Romero showed his ability to read the defense during the camp, hitting the correct receivers in stride on passing plays.

Despite the competition between Romero and Jackson, both players encouraged each other when they had a nice play. Romero and Jackson, who have actually been lifelong friends, were also there to offer advice whenever they had a mishap.

“That is the key to development,” Rampy said. “In football, you have to have 11 guys doing their job. They have to be pulling for each other. You can’t be successful if you don’t. We talk about encouragement and all of us being in this together.”


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