During this magical football season for Reynolds High, coach Shane Laws has often talked about this team and these players being “special.”
And the man knows special.
As an assistant coach for the Rockets’ state title teams in 1999 and 2002 and head coach for the 2009 state champions, he recognizes what it takes to finish the season as the best team in the state in its class.
And one of the signs that indicated this team would stand out and succeed came early in the regular season.
After a 29-8 loss to perennial power Shelby in Week 2, Laws made the decision to make a change at quarterback.
He had been using both senior Nathan St. Onge and junior Alex Flinn at the position, and it was time to settle on one.
It wasn’t an easy decision. St. Onge led the Rockets to a 11-3 mark last season, throwing for 1,903 yards and rushing for 1,1134 yards as the QB, and Flinn had shown promise as a tight end.
But with Flinn’s improvement and maturity and St. Onge’s athleticism making him a talented runner and receiver, it was the right move for the Rockets (14-1).
Except that telling a senior who had success at the most high-profile position that he was going to be moved to a different position and role could have been tricky, and damaging to team chemistry.
But St. Onge is one of those special players that Laws loves.
“I think eight out of 10 players, maybe more, would have felt slighted that they weren’t the quarterback anymore,” said Laws.
“Nate’s only concern was winning football games. He could care less if he was the quarterback, he just wanted to make plays that help us win.
“That says so much about his character. He’s the ultimate team guy, and to have a player with that kind of talent and that level of unselfishness – to have that total commitment to the other 50 guys in the locker room – that’s pretty unique. And that’s why we are playing on Saturday.”
Saturday is the state 3AA title game at Duke’s Wallace Wade Stadium, a 7 p.m. kickoff vs. New Hanover (14-1). The game will be televised live on MY 40.
Both players have flourished once their positions were settled. Flinn (3,743 yards passing, 40 TDs) is having one of the most productive passing seasons ever by a WNC quarterback.
St. Onge (93 catches for 1,074 yards and 12 TDs, 286 yards rushing and nine scores) is so versatile that he is the first Rocket to ever run, pass and throw for more than 1,000 yards in his career.
In three seasons with the Rockets, St. Onge has 5,197 total yards and produced 63 touchdowns running, throwing and receiving.
“One of the reasons for making the change was we wanted Nate to have the ball in his hands as much as possible,” said Laws.
“He is so versatile, and I think he is the best offensive player in this end of the state. By putting him in the slot and the backfield and all the things we do with him, it’s made us a better team.”
And it may have made the Rockets a state championship team.