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Meet Dr. Jekyll and … Dr. Jekyll

L-E quarterback Chandler Price stayed same person but became a different player last season

Posted: August 7, 2017 3:03 p.m.
Updated: August 8, 2017 1:00 a.m.
Photo courtesy of goflashwin.com/

CHANDLER PRICE ACCUMULATED more than 1,000 yards and accounted for 15 touchdowns by rushing, throwing and catching the football as a junior for Lugoff-Elgin in 2016.

All last summer, the signs and words all pointed toward Chandler Price being the person who would step under center as Lugoff-Elgin’s starting quarterback when the Demons opened their season against rival Camden in mid-August.

When the hosts opened that game on offense, however, it was freshman Heath Erwin who was calling the signals while Price, then a junior, watched from the bench. Price would see what amounted relief duty that Saturday night in a 35-14 L-E loss.

Price was inserted into the game with his team trailing, 13-0, midway in the second quarter. Price’s passing numbers were a modest 10-for-22 for 127 yards with a 43-yard touchdown pass to Josh Boone in the third quarter to make it 29-14. Under enormous pressure from the Camden defense, he was thrown for minus (-26) yards on six carries.

It was a humbling start to the season for Price, who entered pre-season practice as the team’s starting quarterback. Rather than hang his head and sulk, he used that opening game disappointment as motivation to win the job back.

“I took it personally as if I was doing something wrong,” Price said following the Demons’ 2017 picture day when asked about that summer evening at Lugoff-Elgin Stadium some 50 weeks earlier. “It worked out in the end, though. I don’t know if that’s what (the Demons’ coaching staff) was thinking or, if I didn’t execute the week before.

“Throughout (last) season, though, we kind of picked it up. I think that we would have had just as much of a chance at winning that game if I was the quarterback as we did (with Erwin.)”

After the disappointment from the Week Zero home contest, Price began to re-assume his starter’s role with his play in the Demons’ 26-17 win at River Bluff six nights later. The following Thursday night, Price cemented his post as the team’s first option at quarterback. In an emotional 35-34 road win at Midland Valley, he ran for three touchdowns while completing six passes for 52 yards, not including a crucial two-point conversion pass.

By season’s end, the right-hander threw for 642 yards and six touchdowns while having run the ball 69 times for 369 yards and eight touchdowns. He also caught an eight-yard pass for a touchdown, for good measure. Those numbers led to Price being selected to the All-Region 6-4A squad.

It became a season of redemption for Price who opened things on the wrong foot only to turn things around.

“It was just his growth as a player,” said third-year L-E head coach Matt Campbell when asked of Price’s journey from backup to a team leader.

“At that point (going into the Camden game), we didn’t have a quarterback who separated himself from the pack. We wanted to give both of them an opportunity; we knew both of them would play. We went into that game thinking that way. 

“In the end, Chandler ended up separating himself. By the end of the year, he was hitting his stride. Chandler at the beginning of last year and Chandler at the end of last year were two completely different players.”

For his own part, Price took on a different persona after not getting the starting nod against Camden. He did not need to be cajoled by his coaches into turning things around. He did that on his own thanks to a newfound sense of determination.

“I changed a lot mentally after not starting our first game,” he said of the frustration which he felt that evening. “I stepped up and came out there with a chip on my shoulder and tried to get better. I thought that I deserved better and went out there and wanted to prove that.”

The first signs of Price’s becoming a team leader were on display in the win over River Bluff. As his own confidence grew so, too, did that of his teammates in their quarterback. Price pointed to that game as the turning point in his season and his career as a Demon.

Not a pretty boy quarterback who sits in the pocket and tries to keep his uniform clean, Price wanted to earn his teammates’ respect once he won the job. To do that, he had to become one of the guys and in a run-first offense that meant Price had to tuck the ball away and run over, around and through defenders. He became a safety in a quarterback’s body.

Price said he does not want to be thought of as a running quarterback rather, he wants to be a threat with his right arm as well as with his legs. In the same breath, however, he said the final call as to what he does on the field is not his alone.

“You have to go out there and do what the coaches ask you to do and execute as good as you can,” said the two-time member of the team’s Iron Demon squad for his work in the weight room. “I like running the ball but when it comes down to it, I feel that I’m capable of throwing it, too.”

While Price is not afraid to take a lick from a defender, Campbell sometimes wishes his starting signal-caller would take fewer shots on the field.

“He’s tough mentally. He’s a physical guy. He likes contact,” said the former NFL offensive guard. “Sometimes, we have to tell Chandler to back off. He has great leadership skills. He’s going to go out there and give us everything he has.”

One area which Price has focused on in becoming a complete quarterback is being able to read opposing defenses. He said spending time watching film with offensive assistant coach Tim Harkness has allowed him to get a better feel as to where the ball needs to go and not to go when the Demons are on offense.

“Reading the defense is a big aspect in my game and why I’m not at the potential that I could be,” Price said quite candidly. “I need to read the defenses better and read the ends better in the running game. When it comes to reading safeties and corners, that is probably where I’m lacking the most.”

Price will direct a revamped L-E offense this season. Graduation took the team’s leading rushers from each of the past two years in Rahmel Burton and Jermaine Jenkins. Junior Randall Brown will step in and is expected to be the team’s feature back.

On the outside, L-E returns one of the state’s fastest athletes in junior wide out Gatlin Lawson, who was second in the 100-meter dash and third in the 200-meter dash at last spring’s 4A state track and field championships. Lawson missed most of last season with an injury. Junior Caleb McDonald provides a precise route-runner and good hands in the slot. Length is provided by a pair of 6-3 wide outs in seniors Tyquintin House and Bradwin Salmond, the latter who returns to the fold after not playing last season. Two years ago, Salmond was L-E’sstarting quarterback. 

“Bradwin and Tyquintin have added a bunch to our passing game this year. It was not like we had bad receivers last year it is just a little difference with the matchups,” Price said of his set of receivers. “With Gatlin out there, we have the speed. And Caleb knows how to run good routes. With Bradwin and Ty Quintin, it will be easier for them and on me because on a bad throw, they can still come down with the catch because of how tall they are.”

Campbell said with a more confident and experienced Price under center, it allows the Demons to open up the offensive playbook. 

“I think we’ll be able to mix it up a little better this year. I think that last year, people thought we were going to run the ball and would only throw as a last resort. I think we’re going to be more balanced this year,” he said.

For his part, Price said he and a large senior class have found a comfort zone with Campbell and the L-E coaching staff. He said he and his classmates have climbed the ladder and still have many rungs left in front of them even after getting one gorilla off their collective back by earning a playoff slot last fall.

The postseason appearance, Price said, helped the Demons’ confidence coming into this season.

“We can build off that first playoff game in I don’t know how many years. It really opened up our eyes in believing that we could get there,” he said of the new attitude surrounding the program. 

“This coaching staff came in and changed everything around. The good thing was that we had good kids coming up and we could learn the system. We are building on our plays every year and now that we are comfortable with our plays, we can add on little by little.”

As the Demons seek to extend their postseason run to two straight years, Chandler Price will play a key role in that quest. Campbell said his returning quarterback has put in the time and effort, both on the field and in the weight room, for this to be a special campaign.

“Chandler’s done a great job. He’s a great kid who has a great work ethic and a great attitude. He’s truly a kid who will do anything to help the team,” Campbell said

“He understands the game. A lot of times and before we can correct him, he’ll say, to us ‘Yeah, I know’ and will already have corrected the mistake himself. He’s really grown and matured. What he’s done in the off-season to prepare and the work he’s put in has helped him continue to grow.”

 

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