Sam Nottingham connecting with Mike Veith for a touchdown had to be what Yorktown football coach Bruce Hanson envisioned when he made the switch to the spread offense after 24 years of running the wing-T.
That particular scenario came to fruition Friday against Hayfield, when Nottingham, the senior signal caller, threw a strike to Veith, the all-district receiver, in the end zone to give the Patriots their second touchdown in as many possessions.
But while the pass was what Hanson had in mind, it is highly unlikely the coach could have imagined the events leading up to it.
Nottingham, slated as Yorktown’s starting quarterback entering the 2009 season, saw his first action Friday after missing three games while suffering from mononucleosis. Nottingham showed his playmaking ability, leading the Patriots to three touchdowns. But he also revealed rust, turning the ball over four times as Yorktown dropped to 1-3 with a 27-19 loss to the Hawks at YHS.
"In the first half, he didn’t play well," Hanson said of Nottingham. "I thought he played good in the second half, but he made a couple mistakes."
After throwing two interceptions and losing a fumble in the first half, Nottingham came out firing in the third quarter. He completed 2 of 3 passes on the Patriots’ opening drive, including a 32-yard touchdown strike to C.J. Bartholomew, which cut the Hayfield lead to seven.
Nottingham found Veith for a 29-yard score on Yorktown’s next possession, but a missed extra point kept Hayfield ahead, 20-19.
"I felt that I should have trust in my receivers all the time," Nottingham said, "to make up for what I did wrong."
BUT YORKTOWN would get no closer, as Hayfield added a touchdown and Nottingham was intercepted in Hayfield territory with 12 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
Nottingham completed 9 of 15 passes for 125 yards and two touchdowns. He was intercepted three times. He rushed 11 times for 33 yards and a score, and also lost a fumble.
While he had his ups and downs, Nottingham figures to improve as he sees more time.
Hanson said of the effect Nottingham’s return would have on the team’s spread offense: "It’s going to make it better."
While Nottingham was in a tough spot, sophomore Jordan Smith has been under pressure all season.
Smith was slated to be a running back and slot receiver for the junior varsity in 2009. After the JV quarterback was injured, Smith was moved to signal caller, meaning he had to learn a new position, along with a new offense.
When Nottingham contracted mono, Smith suddenly found himself as the starting varsity quarterback to open the season.
Yorktown won its opener, 36-14 over Wilson, but dropped its next two.
"It’s been kind of rough," Smith said about his transition. It’s a "fun time with the boys, fun time on varsity as a sophomore, but losing games, that’s not a good feeling for me."
Yorktown coaches found out Tuesday of Hayfield week that Nottingham could play. Still, Smith started against the Hawks, leading the Patriots to a first down on their opening possession, before Nottingham took over.
SMITH SAW action during two additional series, including a pivotal fourth-quarter possession with the Patriots trailing 20-19. Smith led the Patriots from their own 27-yard line to the Hayfield 30, but threw an interception on third-and-10. During the drive, he rushed three times for 15 yards and completed both of his pass attempts for 21 yards before the turnover.
Hanson has praised Smith’s effort and said the sophomore could see time, even with Nottingham back.
"We thought Jordan didn’t play bad the first three games," the coach said.
Smith completed 4 of 6 passes for 52 yards and was intercepted once against Hayfield. He rushed eight times for 36 yards.
Smith said Nottingham has helped him learn to play quarterback.
Said Nottingham: "He’s really taken advantage of my advice, I think."
Yorktown hosts Falls Church on Friday.