By Bill Renje
LOVEJOY, Ga. — Being the new guy is never easy. It’s not easy when you move 1,000 miles away from your previous destination in Salisbury, Connecticut to a new school and a new football program during Week 1 of the season.
And it’s even more difficult when nothing is promised to you, other than that you’ll have to win a very competitive battle to earn the starting quarterback job at a program like Lovejoy that traditionally has a huge spotlight on it.
In this case, that new guy, senior John Seter, was up to that challenge.
He was pushed hard by the other quarterbacks and won the starting job after watching his new team from the sideline loss their first game 34-7 to East Coweta.
Brandon Byram, the Wildcats offensive coordinator saw the challenges with trying to mesh a new quarterback into the system first hand.
“For us it was trying to figure out what we can do, as far as what we already do here with what our system is, and what are his strengths, and how you mesh the two things together,” Byram said. “You always have to adapt to your players. All of a sudden, you get a new kid that’s never been here. You’ve never seen him take any reps. You don’t know what he does well and what he does bad. So that was a learning process for all of us.
“For me, seeing him throw routes, which ones look good, which ones need work and building going forward with what we’re already doing and what he’s good at doing. That’s been the process.”
The process started slow. Seter made his debut during rivalry week against Mundy’s Mill in Week 2. Both he and the offense looked like you might expect it to look in their first game together coming off limited practice time. Flow and consistently were hard to come by for much of the game. Seter had a hard time getting in synch with his receivers.
But with the game tied 7-7 and just under two minutes, the offense showed a glimpse of what was eventually coming with its big play capability. Backed up on their own 13-yard-line, Seter took the snap, threw a crisp, quick out to three-star recruit, WR Marquese Taylor who then took advantage of great blocking, split three defenders and ran away from everybody else on his way to an 87-yard touchdown.
Seter has been pleased with the progress of the offense since his first game, which ended in a 14-7 victory for the Wildcats.
“We’ve been making improvement since my first game,” said Seter. “Our completion rate wasn’t that good, and our passing yardage wasn’t that good against Mundy’s Mill. We had a lot of penalties. But we’ve improved the last three weeks, and are really pushing forward.”
“When I first got here, in a new program and a new school, I just wanted everybody to have my back. And with a completely new offense, everything was foreign to me. But as time has gone on, everything has started to click. We all are starting to trust each other, with these guys really taking me into their family.”
One of those teammates that Seter has gelled with is senior wide receiver Jayden Thomas. Seter threw a beautiful pass to Thomas in last Friday’s 28-27 win over Stephenson. With Seter standing tall in the pocket, and the offensive line giving him ample time, Thomas got behind his defender, caught the pass in stride before shaking and baking the safety for an 87-yard touchdown.
It shows he’s settling into the Wildcat family both on and off the field.
“We met him when he first got here, spent some time with him and his dad and they’re just really good people,” Thomas said. “He’s a real good guy and we bonded quick. From a football standpoint, he’s a great player and has been a good addition to the family.”
If the Wildcats are still playing late in November, they’ll likely talk about both the growing pains and frustration from the fourth quarter leads they didn’t hold against Stockbridge in Week 3 and Spalding in Week 4, as well as the comeback last week after trailing Stephenson 14-0 six minutes into the game.
“Last week (against Stephenson) was the first step to being successful this season,” Thomas said. “Everybody contributed. We came together at halftime (down 14-7). The coaches were telling us that we have to dig it up and find a way to come out victorious. We took that to heart and played our hardest.”
The result of the halftime soul searching was a 21-point third quarter, highlighted by two Seter touchdown passes, and a nearly seven-minute ball control drive to run out the clock in the fourth quarter.
An offense that looked so shaky three weeks earlier against Mundy’s Mill hit on all facets against a big and athletic Stephenson defense. Seter had his best performance so far with 301 yards on 15-of-24 passing, completing three touchdown passes to three different receivers.
Through four games he’s completed 57 of 94 passes for 890 yards, seven scores and four interceptions. His 60 percent completion rate shows how much more comfortable he’s getting with each of the wideouts’ varying levels of quickness, speed and catching points.
Head coach Ed Carson attributes Seter’s quick grasp of the offense to his work ethic and has been impressed with his ability to connect with his new teammates.
“John came in and grasped the offense immediately,” Carson said. “He’s a very hard worker and watches a lot of film. He’s connected with the kids and really meshed with the guys offensively, and the defensive guys as well.”
Lovejoy goes into Friday night’s region match-up at Drew with a 2-0 record in the region (2-3 overall) and could put themselves in a good position with a victory. Byram’s challenge to Seter is to keep doing what he’s doing.
“I don’t have any complaints about John,” Byram said. “I don’t say that a whole lot. But he’s been pretty exceptional in fitting in without trying to fit in, he just fits in (naturally). He’s a good kid and he’s a smart kid. When you have those two characteristics, it’s pretty easy to coach them.”