2009-11-25 / Sports

Brothers lead Clover Hill in two winning seasons

By Joey Matthews

Clover Hill High quarterback Joel Caleb on the sidelines Lisa Billings/Chesterfield Observer Clover Hill High quarterback Joel Caleb on the sidelines Lisa Billings/Chesterfield Observer When former Clover Hill High School All- Dominion District quarterback Josh Bailey returns home this week from Lackawanna (Pa.) Junior College for the Thanksgiving holiday break, he and kid brother Joel Caleb will have a lot to discuss over turkey, dressing and gravy.

A hot topic no doubt will be the bang-up job Caleb has done as a sophomore quarterback for the Cavaliers’ football team this season. Just a year after Bailey graduated from Clover Hill, Caleb stepped in as starting quarterback in game three and promptly helped lead his team on a six-game winning streak.

Clover Hill finished 8-2 for the second consecutive season, earning a berth as the top seed in the Central Region Division 5 playoffs. The team’s standout season came to an abrupt halt with a 22-21 overtime loss at home to No. 4 seed Petersburg last weekend.

Both brothers were surprised when Caleb was inserted by head coach Sean O’Hare into the starting lineup at quarterback. After all, he earned second-team all-district honors as a freshman at defensive back last season for the Cavaliers. He also played tailback and receiver on offense. He saw some practice time at quarterback last season, but never got onto the field to take a snap.

“I had no idea he would start at quarterback this season,” Bailey said.

Neither did Caleb. “I really didn’t expect to start at quarterback,” he confessed. “My favorite position is receiver. That’s where I really wanted to play.”

After he rushed for 197 yards in the seasonopener versus Prince George, it appeared that Caleb had cemented himself in at the running back position for the year. But when the team struggled at the quarterback position through the first two games, O’Hare switched to Caleb to run the offensive show.

“We had talked about it some over the summer,” O’Hare said of the possibility of playing Caleb at quarterback. “Then we had some struggles early in the year. And in the second game, a good Cosby team shut us down 17-0. After that, we decided to put Joel back there.

“We figured it was easier for teams to key on him at tailback and receiver. With his size (6-foot-2, 180 pounds), we couldn’t really hide him. Plus, he makes everybody around him a little better. And he throws the ball well, and every time he gets the ball he’s a running threat.”

Caleb’s older brother concurred with the assessment. “He runs the ball very well at quarterback, he has good field vision and he uses his athletic ability to make plays,” Bailey said.

It was not an easy move for Caleb to make. He was used to playing other positions, and he was getting positive results.

Caleb balked a bit in the beginning, but finally relented and made the move. “I didn’t want to play it at first,” he said. “It’s harder than it looks. But then I started learning more, and it started coming more naturally to me. After that, it was alright.”

The results have been impressive. Caleb rushed 73 times for 1,073 yards in the regular season, scoring 10 touchdowns. He completed 53 of 110 passes for 567 yards and seven touchdowns. He also scored two touchdowns from his defensive back position.

Most importantly, the team has taken winning strides under his signal-calling leadership. “He works hard, and he likes to be out there leading the team,” O’Hare said. “He’s very coachable, and he’s always going to go hard. He’s gotten better every week.”

Also, Caleb stressed, he has not tried to fill the very big shoes of his brother when taking over at quarterback. “I don’t try to play to his ability,” he said. “I just try to do what I can do.”

Bailey said the only advice he’s given his brother “is to keep his grades up, be a leader and to play his hardest.”

Caleb has taken that advice to heart. “Since it looks like I’m going to be playing quarterback for a while, I’m going to keep working hard to keep improving and try to help our team keep improving.”

Caleb is one of several young players to step up to fill leadership roles for the Cavaliers, O’Hare said. “We have four sophomores and a freshman starting for us,” he said. “And a lot of juniors.”

Among the young playmakers, freshman middle linebacker Hollan Fisher moved up from the junior-varsity for game five and has been a leader on defense ever since. “He’s had big games every week,” O’Hare said.

Senior leadership, O’Hare said, has come from the likes of Doug Tyler, who stepped into the starting tailback position when Caleb moved to quarterback, offensive guard/defensive lineman Scott Metheny and offensive lineman Stan Morant.

Bailey also displayed his football versatility this season, playing for the 7-3 Lackawanna team. “I played quarterback, receiver, kick returner and punt returner,” he said. “It was a good learning experience for my first year in college.”

As for Bailey’s future gridiron prospects, he said, “I plan to leave [Lackawanna] and play Division I ball after next year. I’m looking forward to seeing or playing against my brother in a few years.”

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