Jun 30, 2014
Middle Creek High School football coach Mike Castellano knows he has a good quarterback. In fact, he thinks he has a great one.
After entering last season virtually unknown, Brant Grisel stepped into the quarterback role for the Mustangs and threw for 3,383 yards and 37 touchdowns, helping Middle Creek to the 4-AA Eastern Regional Final in the state playoffs.
"We thought we was going to be pretty good. We never thought he would be this good," Castellano said. "We don't want to tell him, but we believe he's the best quarterback in the state of North Carolina."
The experience last season was valuable for Grisel, who returns this fall for his senior year.
"It was good. We had a lot of talented receiver that graduated, and we've got a lot that are coming up now," said Grisel. "Each game made it a lot easier. It starts connecting, everything starts coming together, and it helped a lot."
Middle Creek's coaching staff wasn't certain they would have as much success as they did last season.
"I was blessed. My first year we had a senior quarterback in David [Salmon]. David was a very, very, very good player. Last year we weren't sure," Castellano said. "I think I told you last year we'd be happy to win four or five games, and the next thing you know our quarterback is phenomenal. Our guys rallied around him, worked their butts off just like he did, and we went to the fourth round."
Grisel has a unique ability to rally his teammates.
"Last year I thought he was being too quiet, and it's amazing how our team evolved becoming like him, just quiet workers who got it done, didn't complain," said Castellano. "I was trying to find a character flaw in him. I watched him in class and worked harder than everybody else ... He does it in football, he does it in the weight room, he does it in the classroom. He's just the hardest worker there is."
Last season Grisel was mostly a pocket passer, rushing for just two touchdowns. But the Mustangs' depth chart was thin at quarterback. Middle Creek's back-up quarterback was Curtis Burston, a wide receiver who is now at East Carolina University. Burston didn't play a single snap until week nine due to a foot injury.
"We couldn't risk him at all with the run (last year) ... He can run at 218 pounds and 6-foot-3. HE can run and we hope we can do it some more this year because we do have some quarterbacks behind him," Castellano said.
Becoming more of a dual-threat is a goal for Grisel too.
"The spread offense, throwing the ball a lot, it's just nice for a quarterback ... but I need to start running a little more, so hopefully I can start moving a little bit this season," he said.
Grisel's arm is his biggest asset though, and Castellano dismisses arguments that the spread offense makes Grisel look better than he actually is.
"People say that, but the offense adjusts to who the quarterback is ... He's throwing 15 and 20-yard outs from the back hash across the field," Castellano said. "You can't do that in this offense with a quarterback with a lesser arm. The offense is tailored to him."
Middle Creek had to overcome a lot last season – the Mustangs started a freshman and a sophomore on the offensive line, one offensive lineman was a linebacker who had never played up front before, and the team got down to it's fourth-string running back due to injuries. Still, Middle Creek won the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference and advanced to the regional final.
"It wasn't because we're geniuses, it was because we have the best quarterback," said Castellano.
Grisel feels like he is in a better position to succeed this season.
"I've had a lot more experience, I'm a lot more prepared I feel like, and I'm just excited to get out and start playing again," he said.
Many will have high expectations for Grisel and for Middle Creek as a team this season. But Castellano cautions last year's success doesn't necessarily mean this year will be a success.
"It's a whole new team. Every year is a different puzzle you're trying to put together," said Castellano. "It's a long ways away. We're just trying to get better every day."
But as for their quarterback, Castellano wouldn't trade him for anyone else.
"We're glad we have him. I promise you," he said.
Middle Creek will open the season at home against rival Garner on Friday, Aug. 22.
Follow Nick Stevens on Twitter @NickStevensHSOT
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