By Jordan Burton (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
First there was Trey Derryberry.
Then Alex Derryberry.
Then Keith Guest.
Then Zeke Sappington.
Carthage’s string of quarterbacks is among the best in the Ozarks over the last decade.
And now, the Tigers are handing the streak over to junior Patrick Carlton, who is coming off of an All-COC and All-Region sophomore season, despite starting just nine games under center after an injury essentially ended Sappington’s season.
He passed for 1,115 yards and 14 touchdowns with just one interception, completing 67% of his passes. He rushed 1,354 yards and 23 touchdowns.
“He’s a combination of some of those kids,” said Carthage Coach Jon Guidie. “Keith was physical, with great size and got a lot of those tough yards with his feet. The Derryberrys were more athletic and made plays with their feet, but could also throw it. Zeke was a great passer and could stay in the pocket and pick teams apart.
“Pat is all of those things. He’s 6-foot-2, 215 pounds and has all the tools, but as he understands and grows in our system, he’ll be able to do even more.”
For Carlton, the choice to play quarterback was simple; it’s the most meaningful position in all of sports and his favorite people play(ed) it.
His dad, Tom – a Carthage alum – played the position for the Tigers back in the early 1990’s and Pat’s favorite athlete just happens to be NFL legend Tom Brady.
So, in third grade when Carlton was handed the ball and placed under center, he was a natural fit.
“My dad played it and I’ve always looked up to him,” said Carlton. “I love the position and everything that goes along with it. It’s awesome to be the next guy in the line. They were all great quarterbacks, so I want to hold that line.”
Being the next quarterback at Carthage isn’t a task he’s taken lightly.
Carlton lived in the weight room this summer, bulking up to nearly 225 pounds and working on every aspect of his craft.
This includes appearances at several camps and combines throughout the region, including the prestigious Elite 11 Camp in St. Louis.
Elite 11 is a camp that invites the top quarterback prospects in the nation to work with elite trainers and coaches. Alumni include Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck and Matt Stafford, with 11 of the last 12 Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks attending either the Elite 11 regional or national camp.
“It was an awesome camp. I remember watching the finals on YouTube over the last few years. I’ve always wanted to get there,” Carlton said. “They talked about film and mechanics a lot. I also need to be a better decision maker. I’ve gotten better over the years, but you can always learn and improve. Just continue to fix those mistakes.”
Guidie agrees, but made a profound point when discussing his young quarterback’s progression; he’s still a kid.
Mistakes Carlton made last year were to be expected, he was thrown into the fire with his first start coming against Webb City.
Even still, he went 7-2 as a starter, guiding his Tigers to the Class 5 Final Four.
“We thought this time last year in 7v7 that Pat looked great,” said Guidie. “Nothing seemed to phase or bother him, he just went in and threw the ball. We had all the confidence in the world in him. I’m not sure he was 100% confident going into Webb City. He did some nice things and we kind of figured we had someone special then.
“Once he understands scheme and defenses more, he’ll be even more productive. It’ll come. He’s a 15-year old kid that just got thrown in. He has some stuff to learn, but plenty of time to do it.”
For now, Carlton and Carthage are focused on getting back to the state semifinals, which would be their fourth appearance in the last five seasons.
The Tigers will have a different feel on the perimeter, but Carlton is extremely high on his receiving corps that he feels like is underrated, calling senior Marcus Huntley a super quick slot receiver and being impressed with the offseason growth of Silas Templeman and Justin Snead. Senior 6-foot-7 tight end Alex Martini has become one of the hottest prospects in Missouri.
The pieces are in place for Carthage to have a historic season.
“It’s a grind, but we want to go back to the Final Four and ultimately win a state championship,” said Carlton. “I know everyone on this team is hungry to get back.”
When his attention does shift back to recruiting this winter, he could find himself in a bidding war for his services.
Notre Dame, Arizona State, Kansas and Colorado State all invited Carlton to camp last spring, as did FCS programs Missouri State, Western Illinois and South Dakota.
Level isn’t a major concern at this point and there’s still much to be decided. But, Carlton does have a clubhouse leader if the offer was to ever be extended.
“I’m all over the place right now,” said Carlton. “Obviously, everyone wants to go D1 or D2, either level would be awesome. I just want to play college football. My family has always loved Notre Dame and that would definitely be my dream school. If they ever were to offer, I’d commit on the spot.”