MARIA STEIN – Quarterbacks from Bradford and Mississinawa Valley competed against some of the area’s best in the Maria Stein Country Fest’s Quarterback Challenge on Saturday.
Juniors Andy Branson and Hunter Penkal represented Bradford while senior Trent Perkins competed for Mississinawa Valley. Branson, who started last year for the Railroaders, finished seventh in the 13 player field while Perkins placed 11th and Penkal finished 13th.
The competition, which began in 2012 with Versailles’ Nick Campbell winning the inaugural championship, tested quarterbacks with five rounds of competition including stationary targets, moving targets and a distance throw.
The first round was a stationary target with Branson getting off to a hot start. He scored 80 points, which put him in third place overall behind Coldwater junior Sam Broering with 110 points and Fort Recovery sophomore Clayton Pearson with 100 points.
The second round featured quarterbacks throwing at a moving target attached to a golf cart. Branson had another strong round, scoring 150 out of a possible 300 points, and concluding the round fifth overall.
Broering extended his lead in the moving target round by hitting the bullseye with all three of his throws, giving him 410 total points. St. Marys senior Dustin Howell moved into second place, Pearson dropped to third, and Fort Recovery senior Caleb Martin – the competition’s defending champion – moved up to fourth.
In the distance throw each quarterback had three throws with the top two throws scoring. Points were awarded based on the distance the ball traveled through the air with deductions for missing a center line.
Martin, a University of Toledo commit, led all quarterbacks with an average throw of more than 52 yards, moving him into third place overall.
Broering maintained his lead and Howell stayed in second place through the distance throw. Pearson dropped to fourth overall while Coldwater senior Dylan Thobe moved into the top five.
The quarterbacks then took aim at the stationary target again. Following that round the top three remained the same with Broering, Howell and Martin leading the way. Thobe moved into fourth place while Pearson fell to fifth.
The final round was another attempt at the moving target. Thobe matched his teammate’s performance from earlier with a perfect 300, vaulting him from fourth into second place overall.
However, the other Coldwater quarterback, Broering, maintained the lead he held throughout the competition and won with 921 points, best his teammate by 13 points.
Martin, who guided Fort Recovery to the 2015 Division VII state championship, finished third overall with 836 points. Howell was fourth with 797 points, and Marion Local senior Duane Leugers finished fifth with 762 points.
Branson finished in the middle of the pack behind five quarterbacks from the Midwest Athletic Conference and one from the Western Buckeye League. He beat the four other Cross County Conference quarterbacks, including Covington junior Tyler Freeman and Covington freshman Cade Schmelzer.
“After a while I started doing pretty bad, kind of struggling a little bit,” Branson said.
Branson, Penkal and Perkins all said they enjoyed the competition.
“I struggled, but I liked it a lot,” Penkal said.
Branson enjoyed the long distance throw the most while Penkal and Perkins both liked the moving target.
“It helps because you throw to moving receivers most of the time,” Perkins said.
Maria Stein Country Fest Quarterback Challenge
1. Sam Broering Coldwater 921
2. Dylan Thobe Coldwater 908
3. Caleb Martin Fort Recovery 836
4. Dustin Howell St. Marys 797
5. Duane Leugers Marion Local 762
6. Clayton Pearson Fort Recovery 720
7. Andy Branson Bradford 709
8. Collin Clements St. Marys 664
9. Tyler Freeman Covington 653
10. Bryce Belcher Allen East 652
11. Trent Perkins Mississinawa Valley 646
12. Cade Schmelzer Covington 516
13. Hunter Penkal Bradford 456
Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4316. Follow me on Twitter @KShanerAdvocate or get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.