Quarterback Battle for Vernon Lions

The Vernon Lions have had a renaissance the past two years under Coach Mark Bateman and his return to the Wing-T offense.

This yearm with a strong defense, they're District 1-4A Division II favorites.

But there's just one thing they'll need to decide first: who will be the quarterback to run the offense?

"We're probably as deep there as we are anywhere on the field," Bateman says.

The Lions have an abundance of riches at the one place you really don't want it.  The old saying goes, "if you have two quarterbacks, you don't have one." The Lions this year have four.

"All four of them are really good leaders," Bateman says. They do a great job executing our offense."

The two leaders in the competition seem to be seniors Corrie Luster and Brandon Leija. Each got valuable experience last year.

Luster started against Hirschi in district play, leading the Lions to a 28-8 win.

"It was kinda nerve-wracking at first," Luster admitted. "But then, once I got the hang of it, it started becoming easier."

Leija got an even tougher assignment, stepping in on the third play of the Region I-3A Final against unbeaten Shallowater, after an early injury to David Garza. He rallied the Lions from 16 points down in the fourth quarter, before they fell on a late Shallowater touchdown.

"We all gotta come out here and give it our best," Leija said this week. "It's a battle. So we're all out here doing what we can to help this team get better."

Juniors Francisco Cardenas and Evan Bailey are the two other candidates for the job, but they seem to be further behind in the competition at this point.

Either way, whoever starts will be playing behind an experienced offensive line.

"We've got four out of the five, or actually five out of the six, back from last year," Bateman said. "I'm real tickled about those kids. They're aggressive, they do a great job, they know their assignments. I'd like to be a running back behind that bunch. I guarantee you, they're good."

"They're the most important people on the field," Luster said. "Because without them, there wouldn't be no hole for us to run through."

A major challenge for the Lions this year will be their new, incredibly vast district. They'll travel as far east as Iowa Park, and as far west as Bushland.

"The main thing we're going to have to do is stay focused," Leija says. "That's the whole thing of the game, traveling four hours to Amarillo."

"Just make sure you're studying your plays on the way up there," Luster added. "Get some rest if you have to, and just stay focused."

The Lions start the year with a familiar trip, visiting former district rival Graham in a big season-opener Friday, August 29th.

Vernon Lions 2014 Schedule

Aug. 29 at Graham, 7:30

Sep. 5 at Altus, OK, 7:30

Sep. 12 vs Burkburnett, 7:30

Sep. 19 at Hirschi, 7:30

Sep. 26 vs Springtown, 7:30

Oct. 3 vs Abilene Wylie, 7:30

Oct. 10 BYE

Oct. 17 vs Dalhart*, 7

Oct. 24 at Bushland*, 7

Oct. 31 vs Perryton*, 7

Nov. 7 at Iowa Park*, 7