After waiting in the wings last season as the backup to starter Alijah Martin, Cardell McDowell got his chance to shine Friday night in his first start at quarterback for North Pike.
And the sophomore did not disappoint, putting together a big performance to help kick off the Jaguars’ season on a high note with a 62-13 road victory over the Franklin County Bulldogs.
McDowell threw for 140 yards and a touchdown on 5-of-10 passing to go along with four carries for 70 yards and two additional scores.
“It felt good, it felt good, McDowell said. “At first, I was nervous a little bit (but) when I got into the feel of the game it felt good. “
Even though it was his first-ever start, it wasn’t the first time that McDowell faced the Bulldogs. During last season’s 63-22 win in Summit, McDowell tallied 14 yards on three carries.
This time, however, the win was a lot sweeter for the 6-1, 185-pound signal caller as the spotlight was turned upon him as the successor to Martin, who garnered many accolades last season.
The victory also marked the first for Matt Mock, who made his head coaching debut. Mock added that he was happy to see his signal caller settle in after showing a bit of nervousness early on.
“I thought that he settled down and we got the wind beneath us and we got the chance to play underneath the lights,” Mock said. “It is a lot different than practice, for sure.
“I saw that he made some throws that he wishes he had back," Mock continued. "But then he made some throws that we completed and he threw the touchdown pass. He settled down and made some runs that made us successful in the run game.”
It didn’t take long for McDowell to make his mark. Following an 85-yard kick return for a touchdown by Jermarius Lewis, McDowell added the 2-point conversion before he and the offense even touched the field for an official drive.
McDowell added that the Lewis touchdown helped change his emotions.
“I felt joy when he (Lewis) did that, I felt calm,” McDowell said.
Later on in the first half, McDowell got to work showing that he can be a dual-threat quarterback.
He connected with Jacoby Matthews on a 78-yard touchdown strike before finding the end zone on a seven-yard run. McDowell added that the speedy Matthews helped make the passing score work, as he connected with his senior receiver on a vertical route.
In the third quarter, McDowell recorded a 51-yard touchdown run helping North Pike build a big lead.
McDowell said he used his elusiveness to get around a Bulldog linebacker before finding the end zone.
Mock added that while he is happy to see McDowell turn in a big performance, he has the responsibility of making sure that he stays grounded.
“I think that if you look at any player they have to make sure that they don’t get ahead of themselves, and they have to play each play, each game at a time,” Mock said. “It was good for him to get in and he knew when he made his mistakes and that is a good thing.
“If you realize that you made a mistake don’t make the same mistake again, fix it and then it is a new play.”