A week ago, Drake McDaniel couldn’t tell you much about the Brookville playbook.
On Friday, in front of hundreds of Bees fans at Stinger Stadium, he relayed plays to teammates as he stepped into the pocket and ran them to perfection.
The freshman’s second pass attempt while wearing a jersey on the varsity team went for 21 yards. The third went for 25 yards and a touchdown.
The extra hours he spent in coach Jon Meeks’ classroom at BHS before school started and the extra time he put in after practice during the week paid off.
“I learned pretty much the whole playbook Monday to today,” McDaniel said. “It was difficult, but you’ve just gotta do what you’ve gotta do.”
The confidence cascaded off the quarterback — who earned more than a few fans Friday in Brookville’s 46-14 dismantling of Seminole District foe Liberty High — after the game, and rightfully so.
“Freshman at quarterback at a school like Brookville? There’s been some unbelievable quarterbacks to come through this program, so that’s some big shoes to fill. But I couldn’t believe how calm, cool and collected he was,” said Meeks, who explained McDaniel stepped in at QB after starter Jared Glinski took a hit to the elbow last week.
“Came in like he belongs. Played like he belongs. I think everybody tonight got a glimpse. This kid’s got four years. He looked like a junior or senior out there. He got me excited.”
And Meeks wasn’t afraid to put that excitement on full display during Friday’s game.
Following McDaniel’s second touchdown strike of the night — a 40-yarder to Zach Thompson in the second quarter — Meeks summoned McDaniel as he exited the field and asked to celebrate with him with a hip bump.
“He was getting hype with the other coaches, and I was like, ‘I can’t have everybody see him jump higher than me.’ So I asked him to jump 2 inches so I could get my maximum 4-inch vert. It appeared as though I was an athlete,” Meeks said with a smile.
And McDaniel was happy to oblige.
“It feels great,” he said. “I like it when my coaches give me compliments.”
McDaniel, of course, wasn’t done. He threw his third touchdown of the night three minutes later, this one a 67-yard pass to Thompson, who finished with five catches for 139 yards. McDaniel was 6 for 10 for 161 yards and three touchdowns. Four of his six completions went for 21 yards or more.
Ryan North, who had eight touches for 51 yards rushing, all in the first half, chipped in two touchdowns.
He scored 59 seconds apart in the first quarter to put Brookville up 13-0. Tayshaun Butler also had a 10-yard TD run, and Addison Ellis returned an interception — after snaring a pass tipped by his teammate out of the air — for another score in the first half.
The Bees were helped tremendously by Liberty mistakes. The Minutemen threw three total interceptions and finished with seven fumbles, losing three of those.
LHS ran eight plays from scrimmage in the first quarter, when they fumbled five times (and lost three of those fumbles).
The first of their three drives — which didn’t happen until after Brookville had scored twice after the Minutemen fumbled on a kickoff return — resulted in a punt.
Their second drive, after another Brookville score, included just three plays, the third of which was an interception Brookville took 17 yards the other way for a touchdown.
And Liberty’s final drive of the first quarter was over in seconds when the Minutemen fumbled again — on the first play — to give Brookville another short field and another scoring opportunity, on which the Bees capitalized.
“Everything that could go wrong did,” Liberty coach Chris Watts said.
After the first quarter, though, junior Garrett Whorley helped the Minutemen calm down and cut down on mistakes.
With about 2½ minutes to go in the first half, Whorley found senior John Gass down the right sideline, connecting on a 17-yard pass that went for Liberty’s first score. The play looked easy after so few things had gone right for the Minutemen.
“It’s nice to know you can throw up the ball and someone’s there to catch it,” Whorley said of John Gass, who finished with 52 yards on five receptions.
LHS’ only other score came in the game’s final quarter, when Josh Gass scampered into the end zone for a 3-yard TD.
“We came together and we fought,” Whorley said of his team’s play in the second half .
Liberty held Brookville’s second-string players to minus-8 yards of total offense in the final two quarters, which featured a running clock. But by then, the damage was done. Going down four scores in the game’s first 10 minutes, Watts added, was hard to recover from mentally.
“We’ve gotten off to slow starts, gotten behind the eight-ball, played well in the second half, but it’s too little, too late,” he said.
The Minutemen fell to 1-4 following the loss and extended their skid to three games. Brookville, meanwhile, got the win it was desperate for.
After failing to generate significant offense in its first three games and losing by a combined 19 points, the Bees avoided becoming the first team since the school started playing a 10-game schedule in the 1960s to drop four straight games to open the season.
“We needed that,” Meeks said. “We’ve dropped three heartbreakers. … We were a play away from winning every game.
“… And I think once we scored on the opening drive [tonight] and got the ball right back, you just saw them get a little more pep in their step. It feels good. Feels good to get that first win of the season, and hopefully tonight was the turning point.”
Emily Brown covers the Hillcats, ODAC and high school sports for The News & Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5529.