Disappointment and rumors engulfed the Mountain Pointe football program soon after it became known that the Pride was suddenly searching for a quarterback less than 10 days before the start of spring practice.

It was understandable in today's world where anyone can write anything anonymously on Internet message boards and the ease in which players switch schools in Arizona.

Incumbent Kyle Faunce was headed back to Indiana so suddenly there was an opening at quarterback at one of the premier Class 5A Division I programs that should be in most preseason top five rankings this fall.

Just about everyone fell into the trap. Everyone except Caleb Buck.

"I was excited at the opportunity," the sophomore said. "I was friends with (Faunce and his brother Evan) so it was sad to see them leave but I knew it meant I had a chance."

The 5-foot-11, 160-pound Buck was the junior varsity quarterback last season and helped the team go 7-3. The loss of the elder Faunce put his career path on fast forward but that doesn't mean he wasn't ready.

"I figured I wouldn't start until I was a senior, but my goal was to start as a junior," he said. "When we heard about Kyle everyone was down, getting nervous, wondering who was going to be our quarterback, but I knew I'd be ready to step in."

It's just the first week of spring, and that means there is about three months for movement, but Mountain Pointe coach Norris Vaughan was confident in saying Buck was the guy at the end of the first spring practice.

But it doesn't mean Vaughan and offensive coordinator Eric Lauer won't be creative.

That's where junior Dillan Johnson comes into play.

The 5-foot-8, 165-pounder running back has shown a good arm, has great feet and speed. He is too small to be a pocket passer, but that doesn't mean Johnson can't be used behind center in wildcat type plays.

"When they first told me I was surprised and then when we went to the field and threw the ball I did pretty good," Johnson said. "I am excited about it. Caleb is doing a great job, but if I can help the team by playing some quarterback then that's what I'll do."

Johnson had his junior season cut short by mononucleosis after seven games, although he did return punts in the semifinal loss to Hamilton. Before having his energy zapped, Johnson ran for 478 yards on 67 carries (7.1 yards an attempt) and three touchdowns.

He has heard from a couple of colleges - Penn and South Dakota State - thus far, but knows he can still make an impression regardless of his role.

"I started to feel 100 percent about a month after the season," Johnson said. "I started to get my energy back and got back into the weight room."

Buck welcomes the challenge whether it comes from Johnson or anyone else who might show up on campus, after all the Pride has several new faces that started showing up after Christmas break from schools like Phoenix St. Mary's and Laveen Betty H. Fairfax at other positions, between now and the season starting.

"I wondered at first who might transfer because we are a great program and they see a spot," he said.

"But, really, I can't control that so I am just going to do my best to become the starter."

Buck, whose brother Tyler, a 2009 graduate, started at defensive back for the Pride, said his biggest strength is his football IQ.

"I've been around the game a long time because of my brother," he said. "I make smart decisions and try not to force something that isn't there and I am pretty accurate."

He knows there will be a transition period, starting now, with him calling the shots in the huddle.

"We have good leadership already," Buck said. "As a quarterback I have to have command of the huddle, but we have plenty of (soon-to-be) seniors that will be the leaders of the team. If there is something I think needs to be done I'd do it, but right now everyone is just getting comfortable with everything that happened."

Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or jskoda@ahwatukee.com

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