The quarterback isn't always the best athlete on a football team, but he's often the most important.
From calling plays to making split-second reads to being a leader and the emotional barometer of the entire team, most quarterbacks have plenty on their shoulders.
There are just two quarterbacks in the Daily Herald's Lake County coverage area that are still active this week: Stevenson junior Willie Bourbon and Lake Zurich senior Noah Allgood. Two important players, playing in one of the most important games of their lives. A win equals a spot in the IHSA's version of the Final Four.
Bourbon will lead the visiting Patriots against Barrington in the Class 8A quarterfinals (6 p.m., Saturday) while Allgood and the Bears take a road trip to Wheaton North for the Class 7A quarterfinals (6 p.m., Saturday).
I wanted to find out what makes Bourbon and Allgood tick. Not every quarterback can get their team to the quarterfinals and win 9 and 10 games, respectively. What makes Bourbon and Allgood such good quarterbacks (they both have passed for more than 1,000 yards), and such good leaders? What are their favorite drills? What quarterbacks do they emulate?
I also had some fun with Bourbon and Allgood, whose home stadiums are a short ride down Route 22 from each other. As conference rivals, they know each other and each other's games. They enjoyed providing some friendly analysis.
They also had fun with each other's names, two of the best in Lake County football this season.
Patricia Babcock McGraw: What is key to victory for your team this week, and what do you specifically need to be ready for at quarterback?
Willie Bourbon: "Barrington is a really solid team with good size. We've got to work hard to control the trenches so that our run game can open up the pass. I've got to be ready to handle the pressure. I think they're going to come after me with a lot of different stunts and blitzes. They're really aggressive. I'm going to have to be ready to scramble."
Noah Allgood: "Our goal is to keep our offense on the field as much as possible because Wheaton North's offense is so good. I've got to take advantage of every opportunity I get. We run a majority of the time, but I need to step up and perform with the play action."
PBM: Speaking of victory, how much pressure is on your shoulders each week to lead your team to victory and how do you deal with that pressure?
Bourbon: "Quarterback is a pressure position. You're the guy everyone looks to when the chips are up, or down. And now, in the playoffs, it's win or go home. But I think I play pretty well under pressure. I've been a three-sport athlete my whole life. I'm a control guy and I like to be in control. This position fits me perfectly. I like to know my teammates are relying on me"
Allgood: "People always ask me if I feel pressured and I try not to think about it. My thing is trying to always stay calm. When my teammates see that, I think they're not as frantic."
PBM:What kind of leader are you: loud with a big personality, or quiet with your actions speaking for you?
Bourbon: "I'm a mixture of both. There are certain times when you've got to be vocal, like when the chips are down. You've got to be encouraging and positive. Other times, you just need to lead by example."
Allgood: "I lead mostly by example. I'm not a real vocal guy or a loud guy and I'm not going to try to be someone I'm not. I will talk to guys, but I just keep it real calm. A lot of my offensive linemen are really good at being the big voices."
PBM:Is it even possible to be a quarterback and not be a leader on the team? Can a quarterback just go through the physical motions and call it a day?
Bourbon: "Any quarterback who isn't a leader on the field, isn't really a quarterback. Quarterbacks at any level, high school, college, the pros, are always talking and leading."
Allgood: "You have to be a leader, whether it be by example or with words, because everyone's always looking at you, even the fans. Everyone wants to see what you're going to do."
PBM:Besides leadership qualities, what else makes you a good quarterback?
Bourbon: "I have good vision. I can see things others can't see in a defense. When nothing's open, I can take the ball and make things happen. And I'm not just a pocket passer. When something breaks down, I can use my legs and get out of there. I just have a feel for the game."
Allgood: "I have a certain mindset and knowledge about the game. I put in a lot of time off the field, studying. I watch a lot of film. I study defenses. I'm a good student of the game. I watch film during the week, and for at least three to seven hours on Sundays. I want to find weaknesses in a defense. I want to see how they line up, what coverages they run. I try to notices tendencies by the linebackers and defensive backs. Studying really helps my game."
PBM:Is there a quarterback out there at a higher level that you look up to or emulate?
Bourbon: "Drew Brees (of the New Orleans Saints) has always been my favorite. He's not the tallest, like me. But he's athletic and can move around and he's very accurate. I like that. I also really like Johnny Football (Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M). He can really move. He loves to scramble and I love that."
Allgood: "Drew Brees. I can relate to him with the height. And he's very fundamental. I like that a lot about him."
Note 1: Both Bourbon and Allgood chose Brees independently of one another.
Note 2: Drew Brees is listed at 6-foot. Bourbon is 6-foot-2 and Allgood is 5-foot-11.
PBM:How long have you been a quarterback and how did you learn the ropes?
Bourbon: "I was always a fullback and linebacker when I was growing up. Then one day in the playoffs when I was in like sixth grade, they had me go in motion and I pulled up and threw the ball. It went like 40 yards and I think everyone was like, 'Who is that kid?' My coach back then with the Buffalo Grove Bills was Joey Weber and he really worked with me on quarterback stuff from then on. Now, he's on the Stevenson staff coaching the sophomores. He got me started and then I started going to a lot of quarterback camps and working with guys like (former NFL quarterback) Jeff Christensen (Throw It Deep)."
Allgood: "I didn't play quarterback until seventh or eighth grade. I was always a bigger kid. Even after freshman year when I did play quarterback (and middle linebacker), I got moved as a sophomore and I was playing defense and offensive guard again. Last year, I played quarterback and linebacker. I still play some linebacker this year. It's kind of a joke that I don't even really look like a quarterback. I've got a big lower body and I'm not very tall, but I just try to use that to my advantage and catch people off guard. My dad (Marc) was also a quarterback and offensive guard in high school and I credit him with teaching me a lot about the game and how to be a quarterback at my size. He was the offensive coordinator of my team in seventh and eighth grade and he taught me everything I know. I've also gone to a lot of camps since I got to high school. That's helped, too."
PBM:What are the skills and fitness drills that you enjoy the most, and that help you be the best quarterback you can be?
Bourbon: "There's a drill we do at Throw It Deep where you've got a bunch of quarterbacks and receivers on the field and you're paired up with a receiver and as you drop back the receivers scatter and you have to find yours and quickly get it to them on the money. It's a great way to work on vision and quick feet. I think (being a good quarterback) is all about quick feet and footwork. Where your feet are…that's how you'll throw it. Proper footwork gets you lined up right and gets you in the right position. It makes up for not having the best arm. Being quick on your feet and being able to move in small windows is also important. It's why I jump rope every day. I come in before school at 6:30 in the morning to jump rope."
Allgood: "There's this one drill where Coach (Drew) Cooper, our quarterback coach, throws beanbags at me and I've got to dodge them and move around the pocket. That's a good one. I also like doing ladders on the track. It really helps with my footwork. Being a quarterback is 60 percent mental, 25 percent footwork and 15 percent having the arm and the ability to (hit your target)."
PBM:What was your best game this season?
Bourbon: "Probably St. Charles East in the first round of the playoffs. I ran the ball well, I passed well and I didn't have any turnovers. That's how I judge my night. If I don't have any turnovers, there's a good chance we're going to win the game."
Allgood: "The Lake Forest game. We were down 10-0 and right before half, I scrambled and hit Ben Klett for a touchdown and I think that really gave us the momentum we needed in the second half to win the game."
PBM:From best to better…Let's have some fun. You guys know each other well and faced off just three weeks ago. Bourbon or Allgood…who is the better passer?
Bourbon: "I'd like to think I am with the guys we have for me to pass to (Division I recruits Matt Morrissey and Cameron Green). They're so good. I always tell them that if I'm in trouble to just go and scramble. We call it our scramble drill. I can just throw it up there and usually they can get it."
Allgood: "He is. They've been so successful in the passing offense and there are some great receivers around him. He makes some really good throws, too."
PBM:Bourbon or Allgood…who is the better runner?
Bourbon: "He's the better runner. The things they can do in their running game, with all the misdirection, are pretty good. When he's running the ball well, (Lake Zurich) is deadly."
Allgood: "He's a faster runner, but I could probably truck a few more guys than him. I'm a more powerful runner."
PBM:Bourbon or Allgood…who is the better improviser?
Bourbon: "I'd like to think I am. When the play isn't there, I'm pretty good at making something happen."
Allgood: "He is. He moves around really well."
PBM:Bourbon or Allgood…between two really good names, who has the better name?
Bourbon: "I like Allgood. It has a nice ring to it. He's GOOD at everything. Mine's pretty good. (Then Bourbon starts laughing.) It would've been better if my parents had named me Jack Daniels Bourbon. They were actually thinking about it."
Allgood: "No question, I've got the better name. I mean, everything's ALL GOOD. Everybody always comments about that."
Follow Patricia on Twitter: @babcockmcgraw