COLUMBIA – Christian Elliot left his Moberly home that day in August 2011 as a soccer player turned football kicker and returned as a candidate for arguably the most important position on his team.
“Holy cow, Mom, they have me at quarterback,” he said when he returned home that day.
The then-freshman had recently enrolled at Columbia's Fr. Tolton Regional Catholic High School after briefly considering attending Moberly High School. He cited continuing a Catholic education as one of his reasons for commuting 45 minutes to school every day. But football had something to do with it as well.
Tolton will play the Marionville Comets at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in Marionville.
Elliot had played competitive soccer since he was 8 years old but always wanted to play football. The problem was that his junior high school, a private school, did not offer the sport. Once he moved to Tolton, he considered playing soccer and being the part-time kicker on the football team. Because soccer is not a big sport yet at Tolton, he decided to take his chances in a helmet and pads.
Quarterback competitions are common in football. Signal callers, from Pop Warner youth football to the NFL, try to outshine one another to see their name at the top of the depth chart when Week 1 of the season rolls around.
Rarely, if ever, do you have two players jockeying for the most celebrated football position with little-to-no experience at throwing.
Enter: Christian Elliot vs. Caleb Lucero.
The summer before Tolton High School opened its doors for the first time for the 2011-12 academic year, Elliot and Lucero, both incoming freshmen, were working out with some of their future teammates at Columbia College since their school building was not finished yet.
Coach Chad Masters had about 18 fresh-eyed boys at his disposal. Many of them, including his two quarterbacks, had never played organized football before.
“I played baseball until eighth grade, you know, little league stuff,” Elliot said. “(I) wasn’t much of a thrower. I didn’t throw with a perfect spiral, consistently, for a long time.”
Last season, the team played junior varsity games. Elliot made it through mostly on the ground, rushing for 529 yards and throwing for an additional 295, according to the Columbia Daily Tribune. The junior varsity team ended the season with a 2-5 record.
This season, the school's first varsity schedule, has not been as spectacular, with the varsity team opening the season with a 0-4 record and scoring its first points of the season last week in a 55-12 loss to Tipton High School.
“Yeah it’s a rocky start, but what separates us from the teams we play is experience and age,” Elliot said. “Two of which we will get by playing, and that’s why Coach gave us this rocky schedule ... It’s only going to make us better.”
Despite his shortcomings in the passing game when he initially arrived at Tolton, Elliot caught Masters' eye the first day in the weight room. Elliot was bigger and stronger than the other boys and was the most athletic in the drills the team went through that summer.
“Coach was like ‘Let’s try you at quarterback,’” Elliot said.
Lucero, who is noticeably smaller than Elliot, was training to be the team’s quarterback early on, but Masters wanted to take a look at Elliot as well. Sophomore wide receiver Jon Steinmetz was also an early contender last season and is the backup quarterback this season.
“From the beginning it could have been me or him, it didn’t really matter,” Lucero said. “Whoever got the job done best.”
Elliot ended up winning the battle after showcasing skills on and off the field.
Masters said Elliot is intelligent, a hard worker and competitive, and the team filled the position with the player who could bring the most to the table.
“He’s just a good athlete,” Masters said.
And there are no hard feelings between the former competitors.
“No, not at all,” Lucero said when asked if there was any animosity. “Of course not, he’s my QB now."
Supervising editor is Greg Bowers.