For Dan Domenico, losing talented players is just part of the game.
It’s a little tougher when replacing quarterbacks.
“Everywhere across Ontario that’s just something you have to deal with,” said Domenico, Northern Red Knights’ head football coach, following his team’s season-opening win Thursday afternoon.
“Kids are going to prep schools in the states and getting recruited by private schools. Every school has to deal with it.”
With all of last season’s quarterbacks graduating, Domenico then saw 2014 junior varsity MVP and expected 2015 starting quarterback Marcus Reeb transfer to St. Francis High School in Athol Springs, NY before the season.
The veteran coach was forced to be creative.
“I’m looking around for a quarterback on the first week of practice and, quite frankly, the kids that were coming out for quarterback really didn’t have enough arm strength to play the position,” said Domenico. “This one kid, who wasn’t a very tall kid, was just out there trying out as a receiver and was throwing zingers all over the place.
“I went over to him and said ‘Here, go back another 10 yards back and throw me the ball’.”
The unknown youngster, Teshaun Tran, impressed his new coach.
“Having Teshaun just throwing the ball around after practice one day and showing he has an arm was like he just dropped out of heaven for me,” said Domenico. “Holy cow! Where did you come from?”
While Tran didn’t come to camp expecting to be the Northern signal caller this season, he was willing to do whatever he could for the team.
“I was fine with it, I’ll do whatever the coaches need me to do,” said Tran. “If they want to put me anywhere else, I’ll go.”
Tran got his first action under centre in a controlled scrimmage versus Etobicoke before starting in the Red Knights’ regular season opening win against local rivals Leaside Lancers.
Domenico gave the Grade 11 student a pretty simple game plan in his first competitive action Thursday afternoon.
“I told my quarterback ‘Just don’t lose the game for us’,” said Domenico. “Our defence is playing well, our special teams is too, just don’t throw a stupid pick that would cost us the game.”
The Red Knights had to lean on a full team effort in their 12-3 defeat of the Lancers.
It took a while to find his groove, but the young passer found Matthew Uriah in the end zone from the Leaside 20-yard-line for a game sealing touchdown with 2:28 remaining in the final quarter.
“That touchdown was really big there because now that gives him a little bit of confidence to let him know he can do it,” said Domenico.
Tran was happy with his first score, but he’s not getting ahead of himself yet.
“I had a rough start at the beginning of the game,” said Tran. “I felt better in the second half, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.”
— Mitch Sanderson (@Mitch_Sanderson) October 2, 2015
As head coach, offensive coordinator, and quarterback coach Domenico knows that this is no easy task for his inexperienced field general.
“Unless you’ve done it, you have no idea how difficult it is,” said Domenico. “Everything is in fast motion for him right now.
“You have to worry about your footwork, know what everybody’s doing on the play, read your keys, know what defence the other team is playing, and all that is just sort of blurry for him right now.”
With Mauricio Mendez-Percivale as the only returning offensive linemen, Tran was under duress all throughout his first game, making it difficult for the 16-year-old to do all that was asked of him.
“The toughest part has been learning how to read things, not to panic, and just stay cool behind the line,” said Tran.
Domenico is ready to be patient with his guy.
“Im looking at this as a project for the end of the year,” said Domenico. “We’re not talking about getting this all figured out in a game or two.”
Tran is also thinking about the end of the year.
“The goal is to stay healthy and win the Metro Bowl,” said Tran.