One started last season wearing No. 85 and the other spent his junior season sending in signals from the sidelines.
And yet as spring football comes to a close Alex Farina of Desert Vista and Garvin Alston of Mountain Pointe are in prime position to command the offensive huddle in the fall.
Farina did just that last year over the final five games after getting his first varsity action as a sophomore in the Ahwatukee Bowl. By then he was wearing No. 28, but it might have been more fitting if he wore No. 6, as in pick six.
Farina succumbed to inexperience, big lights and everything else that comes with the Ahwatukee Bowl in that initial action as he threw three interceptions including two pick sixes that turned the game into a laughter.
But Farina, who hopes to wear No. 11 this fall, progressed enough in the next four starts — six touchdowns, two interceptions — to be tabbed the starter next year as a junior despite the fact that Cade van Raaphorst is back for his senior year.
Van Raaphorst was Desert Vista’s initial starter at quarterback last year, but will be asked to play linebacker, as he did in Week 10, if he decides his lacrosse future doesn’t take precedence.
Thunder coach Dan Hinds said Farina’s development and poise stood out during last year’s trial by fire.
“You know how some people are calm no matter what the situation is? That’s Farina,” Hinds said. “He commands the huddle a little differently. He isn’t going to yell to get their attention. He steps into the huddle and there is a calming influence.”
Farina missed the first week of spring ball because of his role on the varsity baseball team, but has been running the show ever since and he already feels different with all of his responsibilities.
“Everything happened so fast last year,” said Farina, who completed 47 percent (47 of 100) of his passes for 658 yards. “The speed of the game was so much faster, but I got a feel for it now. I know the offense better and feel comfortable with everything.”
The Thunder went an uncharacteristic 4-6 a year ago as they used three — senior Brendan Smith played sparingly — quarterbacks.
Stability at the position is vital and Farina has a chance to do just that over the next two seasons.
“Everyone knows how important the quarterback is,” Farina said. “They have to be able to trust me, know I am going to work hard and do everything I can to get better and make plays. It’s what I am working for and it starts now.”
Alston joined the team last Wednesday so the junior had about a week and a half with the football team after baseball was eliminated.
Soon thereafter, taking over the offense became a reality.
“It was just an idea last year,” he said of being the starting quarterback in 2014. “I never really had a chance, but once the seniors left I felt like it was our locker room. We want to continue what they started.”
The Pride went 14-0 and won its first state title with Alston mostly watching Antonio Hinojosa dissect the opponent.
Alston, who has verbally committed to the University of Arizona for baseball, only played in mop-up duty (6 for 9 for 82 yards and a score) on Friday nights so his most important action was running the scout team offense against Mountain Pointe’s defense, which was considered the best in the state.
“I didn’t play much, but what it was, was going against the No. 1 defense in the state over and over again to prepare me for this,” said Alston, whose dad, Garvin, is the pitching and rehab coordinator for the Oakland A’s. “That was more or less my reps. It was about ball placement and seeing what my limits are.”
Mountain Pointe coach Norris Vaughan, who is a bit of a quarterback guru, feels Alston is more than capable to take over.
“He’s going to be very good,” Vaughan said. “He’ll step in and make a lot of plays for us.”
Alston, who was listed at 6-foot-2 and 175 pounds last year, plans to plan under control.
“No turnovers,” he said. “What coach Vaughan gives me is what I am going to try and do. I am not going out there to be Johnny Manziel. I want to stay within the system, make sure that we stay in tempo. I need to know what everyone else is doing so I can be a coach on the field. We have so many playmakers, I just need to get them the ball.”
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