Garcia filling in well for Leopards
By CONOR NICHOLL
La Crosse High School senior running back/linebacker Levi Morss said he was "really scared" when senior Clayton Basgall went down with a season-ending knee injury in late summer. Basgall had started at defensive back last fall and was expected to start at quarterback and defensive back this year.
However, sophomore Jack Garcia has stepped in at both roles and led the offense effectively. In last Friday's 20-8 second-round playoff victory against Oakley, Garcia completed 9 of 12 passes for 116 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. He also recorded a tackle for loss and an interception on defense.
On Friday, La Crosse (11-0) travels to Meade (10-1) for the Class 2-1A sub-state championship game.
"He is another guy that has really stepped up," Morss said. "Jack, he has stepped in on defense and on offense just like he is a top 2-1A quarterback."
Garcia has yet to turn the ball over in the playoffs, while the La Crosse has picked off seven passes in two games. Garcia, the brother of former Leopard standout quarterbacks Joey and Jeremy Garcia, has completed 74 of 118 passes for 1,338 yards with a 16/4 TD/INT ratio.
"He is a good little quarterback," Brookville/Ell-Saline coach Terry King said. "He runs the offense well. He runs counters. He makes reads. He does a lot of things well."
Among sophomores, Garcia has passed for the third-most yards in Kansas and has the highest passer rating (127), according to maxpreps.com.
"We could ask for much more out of a sophomore," fourth-year coach Jon Webster said.
Garcia has played some of his best games against the tougher opponents. In Week 7, La Crosse defeated Sterling 42-28, a team that lost to Meade in the second round of the playoffs last week. Garcia threw for 206 yards and two TDs in the contest.
"I think he has definitely exceeded what we have asked him to do," Webster said. "We wanted him to come in and manage the game and not put us in a bad situation."
"I think you have to give him a lot of credit for the Sterling victory," Webster added. "He has played well in the playoff games. He completes a high percentage of balls. He always give our receivers a chance to make a play. He does good things when the ball is in his hands and he is a tough kid."
Last year, La Crosse took at least one chance per game at a big play when wideout Austin Webs and quarterback Tayler Stull. This season, the one area the coaches have stressed with Garcia is not forcing the ball. His favorite target is senior fullback Kip Keeley, who has caught 24 passes for 468 yards and five scores. Three players who saw little to no action offensively last season - juniors Marshall Jay and Taylor Yohe and senior William Storie have between 10 and 18 catches and 212 and 287 receiving yards.
"We want him to throw the safe pass and he has done a good job with that," Webster said.