From being ineligible his sophomore year, to starting at the quarterback position on the varsity football team his junior year, Dylan Graves has gone through all emotions possible.
During his freshman year, Graves played wide receiver on the junior varsity (JV) team at Cottage Grove High School.
“I was expecting big things from myself at receiver my sophomore year, especially after getting those reps on varsity,” said Graves. This wasn’t the case when his sophomore year came around though. Graves struggled with academics during his freshman year and his grades made him ineligible for all games during the season, but he still got to practice with the team.
“When I found out I wouldn’t be able to step on the field in a single game, it tore me up. I felt like I was kicked in the face. The amount of emotions I had when the first game came along, it really stabbed me in the heart. I had that feeling week after week just knowing I couldn’t dress up and go in even when we had injured players,” said Graves.
This was the turning point for his mindset towards school and the sport he loves.
“Halfway through that season our quarterback coach JJ (Jordan Johnson) came up to me during a practice and said that I had potential to become next year’s quarterback,” said Graves. “I started taking second team reps at quarterback under our starting quarterback senior Blake Sentman, and then heading into summer and team camp I was taking first team reps at the position,” Graves continued.
He put in lots of work in the summer, between doing online schooling to catch-up academically, to doing morning workouts with quarterback coach Johnson to becoming more skilled at the leader position on the field.
“When week one of this season came, I knew that I was going to be starting quarterback. We had our plan for the first game and I knew what I needed to do,” said Graves. “When I took those first steps on the field in the game, it was just a lot of rush, it felt like everything was coming at me at once,” he said.
That reality set in when the first three plays of the first game came along.
“In those first three plays, I got completely blown up, absolutely destroyed, so I thought I was in for a rude awakening,” Graves said. But a rude awakening was the complete opposite from what really happened. In the next play after getting obliterated by the strong defense, Graves threw for a 70-yard touchdown to gain his first of many touchdowns this season at quarterback.
Graves has had an impressive season as the Lions starting quarterback. Cottage Grove went undefeated in league play this year and are holding a strong 8-0 record going into playoffs. The Lions’ football team has been ranked number one in the entire state for the 4A division for the majority of the season.
“Heading into the playoffs, I am not too worried about any other teams in our way. We know what other teams are capable of and I know what my team is capable of and I know we can execute,” said Graves.
After a bye week, the Lions will play North Marion at home on Friday night.