NEW CARLISLE — So what’s the biggest difference between Michael McCullough and Bryce Hayman?
“Obviously eight inches,” Michigan City coach Phil Mason said after Friday’s controlled scrimmage with New Prairie.
OK, so height isn’t one of the (maybe) 5-foot-8 Hayman’s fortes, but there’s a quarterbacking skill set in the Wolves’ new signal caller. It’s just not the same as his predecessor McCullough, who steered City to its first regional title last season.
“There are things we have to do with Bryce,” Mason said. “Mike could see things if he held in the pocket. Bryce can’t see over the trees. We have to get him outside. He’s a great athlete, a great kid. He’s a competitor. He just wants to play football. He’s got great feet. He can make plays.”
The elusive left-hander showed it against the Cougars, both with his arm and his legs. He had a scoring run of 65 yards and completions of 18, 20, 30 and 35 yards to the combination of slot Kameron Muhammad and massive tight end Justin Wozniak. Wozniak reeled in two scores in the goal line segment and Muhammad took another Hayman toss 35 yards to the end zone.
“Man, it’s fun,” Hayman said. “I grew up playing quarterback my whole life. It’s good to be back. I like having the ball in my hands. I just have to find guys, give them the ball and let them do their thing.”
Folks have asked Mason if the offense is going to be prolific again and while most coaches aren’t going to make such promises, the confidence is clearly there in the group’s ability to keep the beat going.
“People are wondering if we’re still going to have a big play offense and I think we still are,” he said. “We’ve got cats all over the place. It’s just a different style within the same system. We’ll adjust the scheme to (Hayman’s) style of play.”
Hayman’s ascent to the position wasn’t a foregone conclusion all summer. He split time for a while with a possible transfer, spending some time in the slot, where he played on Fridays last season, but when the other QB decided to go back to Iowa, Mason handed the keys to the offense to Hayman.
“Coach came up to me and said, are you ready to be the guy?” Hayman said. “I just want to be on the field. I just want to win. It doesn’t matter where I’m at.”
As evidenced by a pair of interceptions, Hayman is a work in progress, like you could say for most any quarterback.
“I have to fix some throws, make better reads,” he said. “I’m still making throws like I’m in baseball mode, throwing bullets. I have to get into football mode.”
With that will come his ability to stretch the field vertically and look out.
“It’s like he’s throwing the ball from the outfield,” Mason said. “He wants to throw lasers all the time. He has to work on what we call, the two and three ball, getting a little air underneath it, trusting that his guys are going to get it. When he does, that downfield concept will develop.”
On the other side, there was no glimpse at the signal-caller line of succession as New Prairie coach Russ Radtke kept junior Chase Ketterer out of action, “keeping stats,” as Radtke put it, while playing sophomore Ian Skornog with the No. 1s.
“It was exciting,” said Skornog, part of freshman-JV group that went 18-0 last season. “We didn’t run our normal offense. We’re just getting ready for La Porte.”
Skornog came out firing, a stark contrast to the Cougars’ ground-dominant attack a year ago, and showed some passing skills that will provide an added dimension this season.
“Chase can throw, too.” Skornog said. “We’re going to be throwing a lot more than in the past. We’re still going to run a lot, but not like we used to.”
Both Ketterer and Skornog are also listed as defensive players, so Radtke knows there’s a necessity of having two ready to go for any scenario.
“He’s got a great attitude,” Radtke said of Skornog. “Some of the plays in the backfield were more a case of pass blocking than him. He made some good passes and he had some good runs.”