When standout MacArthur quarterback Josh Jung quit football in January to concentrate on baseball, Brahmas coach Ben Cook turned to 15-year-old freshman Tyler Vitt to lead the offense.
“I just said, ‘Let’s go, let’s go,’” Cook said Thursday, recalling his conversation with Vitt. “He took to it and went to work. His work ethic is unbelievable.”
Eight months later, Vitt ranks among the top quarterbacks in the San Antonio area. Now a 16-year-old sophomore – his birthday was Wednesday – Vitt has demonstrated a maturity beyond his years in adapting to his starting role.
Off to their best start since advancing to the state quarterfinals in 2010, MacArthur (4-1, 1-0) plays Churchill (3-1) in a District 26-6A game at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Heroes Stadium. The Brahmas, who have won three in a row since losing to Clemens in a 45-43 barnburner, are No. 6 in the KENS 5 Class 6A area rankings. Friday night’s game will be the district opener for Churchill.
“They really mix up their coverages a lot, more than other teams we’ve played,” Vitt said. “Their DBs are quicker than anybody we’ve played. They’re big and physical on the defensive line.”
Vitt has been coolly efficient as the catalyst in Mac’s explosive offense, completing 70 of 97 passes with no interceptions for 1,389 yards and 18 touchdowns. He also has proven to be a strong leader, always an important quality for a quarterback.
“We talked to Tyler about it in the spring and he’s come along real well,” Cook said. “He has a quality about him that people gravitate toward him. He’s not one of those yelling, screaming type leaders. He’s just one of those types who people will follow because he’s so humble. I know everyone says that – ‘My guy is humble’ – but he really is.”
Vitt, 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds, started his freshman year on the junior varsity before getting moved up to the varsity at midseason when Jung’s backup went down with an injury.
“We threw him out there and got him going,” Cook said. “We put him in a game against Reagan as a kick returner and he got some reps as a quarterback against Lee and Roosevelt.”
Vitt, who also plays baseball for Mac, cemented his position as the Brahmas’ starting quarterback in the spring with his command of the offense.
“That’s what I’d been waiting for,” Vitt said. “I was excited to lead my teammates. I worked hard all this summer to be the man.”
Cook attributes much of Vitt’s development to quarterbacks coach Trey Fitzpatrick, who has forged a strong bond with him.
“I have a very good relationship with him,” Vitt said. “He’s like a brother and a dad. We’re so close that we can joke with each other, but also get down to business. We watch a lot of film together and he works with me on everything.”
Vitt also has a benefited from playing with a group of talented, experienced receivers, an outstanding running back and a strong offensive line.
“The receiving group that we have are those sophomore kids who were on the varsity for us in 2013,” Cook said. “They’ve played a lot.”
Now seniors, Bobby Lepovitz (19 catches, 461 yards, 6 TDs), Jeremiah Cura (13-237-5) and Nate Vega (12-192-3) all have contributed to Vitt’s development. Senior running back Daijon Williams has rushed for 710 yards and 11 TDs on 80 carries, and also has 12 receptions for 266 yards and three TDs.
“It’s a very balanced group,” Cook said. “In our type of offense (no-huddle spread), Tyler’s the type of kid we give a lot of freedom to put the ball where you need to put it, and he’s done a great job of that. He just makes good decisions.
“That’s something his coach (Fitzpatrick) stresses to him, and that’s what our offense is built on. We don’t think we’re going to just overpower people, but we’ve got to do what we can do and that’s try to be precise and try do things the right way.”
Vitt has learned that the mental aspects of playing football are critical to success.
“Every night before I go to sleep I watch a little bit film of the team we’re going to play,” he said. “I come in twice a week before school and watch film with Coach Fitz.”
Vitt has a strong arm and “can make all the throws,” Cook said. “He’s got touch. He can put it on you, he can throw deep. It’s very impressive the tools that he has.”
Vitt, a center fielder, played on the Mac varsity baseball team as a freshman last season. He was a pitcher/center fielder on the McAllister All-Star team that advanced to the Little League World Series in 2012, a year after McAllister finished third in the country at the tournament.
Vitt said playing in front of such large crowds as a 12-year-old gave him a poise that he’s drawn from as a high school quarterback. One of his teammates on the McAllister team, Jordan Cardenas, is a running back at Churchill.
“It was a cool experience,” Vitt said.
Cook has been impressed with Vitt’s steady leadership since he became a starter.
“He has a good balance of respect for the older guys who have done it, but at the same time he knows what his job is,” Cook said. “He knows that the responsibility of being a quarterback is to be leader. Not in everything. We believe that it takes 11 guys out there working together.
“If we complete a pass, it’s 11 guys contributing. These guys buy into that. That’s something Tyler believes in, too.”
Vitt is all in with that.
“That’s the mentality,” Vitt said. “We have a bunch of players who just don’t want to let each other down.”