Whitman finds his niche guiding Comets

The junior emerged from a preseason battle for the varsity quarterback job, and has guided the Comets to a pair of victories thus far. Newman will try to make it three in a row on Friday night at Bureau Valley in the Three Rivers North opener for both squads.

A 5-foot-11, 170-pounder, Whitman observed and learned from last year’s QB starter, A.J. Sharp. Sharp’s job was largely to avoid mistakes and utilize the wealth of talent around him, which he did to the tune of a 13-1 record and a Class 2A state championship.

“We’d always partner off at practice, try and work each other and make each other better,” Whitman said of Sharp. “I just took what I learned down there up to where I’m at now.”

Whitman won a two-man battle with one of last year’s backups, senior Trevor Bolin, to earn the varsity job this season. Much like Sharp, Whitman impressed with his ability to run the offense. He didn’t necessarily need to do anything spectacular – just get the ball to the right people in the right spots at the right time.

Quarterbacks coach Jim Nieman made the call to go with Whitman, as head coach Mike Papoccia relies on his position coaches to make that call.

“Coach Nieman chose Whitman hands down because of what he was looking for in a quarterback,” Papoccia said. “He wanted him to carry out fakes. He wanted him to understand the offense. He wanted him to be very positive in the huddle, and he picked Whitman.

“Watching the films when we break them down, Whitman has certainly still been doing that in the games, so I think we made the right decision.”

Whitman underwent a baptism by fire in Week 1, with a road game against Rockridge. The Rockets handed the Comets their only defeat in 2013, and entered this season ranked third in Class 2A. Newman was No. 1.

“I was nervous, I’m not going to lie,” Whitman said. “Coming into a team that good, and that we lost to last year, being a quarterback for the first time on varsity, I wanted to go out there and prove that the coaches made a good decision.”

Newman didn’t have an overpowering night offensively, but didn’t commit a turnover in grabbing a 20-14 win. Whitman completed 1 of 3 passes, with that one being a 12-yard TD to Dillan Heffelfinger that broke a 14-14 tie.

For the season, Whitman is 5-for-7 for 57 yards and two TDs.

Bolin, meanwhile, is the backup QB once again, though he’s been taking some reps at halfback in practice. He’s also a standout cornerback.

“I think we’ve got two really good quarterbacks,” Papoccia said, “so I’m very comfortable with that.”

Bureau Valley, meanwhile, is in the process of settling its quarterback situation. The incumbent, senior Parker Neuhalfen, completed just 5 of 17 passes with an interception in a season-opening 23-13 loss to Hall.