Barring an injury to the starter, the game-night responsibilities of high school back-up quarterbacks are pretty cut-and-dry: chart plays on a clipboard, cheer on teammates and be ready in case of an emergency.
With just over four minutes left in Northville’s Sept. 23, 2022, home game against Brighton, Mustang QB2 Isaac Pace more than proved he was ready.
“It all happened so fast, I didn’t really have time to think,” Pace remembered, when asked about his mindset during the seconds after he learned of his heightened status.
“At first, I thought to myself, ‘Holy crap!’ But once I got in the game, I was fine.”
Pace engineered a productive drive which saw the Mustangs move to the Brighton 15-yard line with the final seconds ticking off the clock.
A blocked field goal prevented overtime — and potentially more Pace heroics — but the talented lefty had proven he was up to the challenge.
In the wake of Prior’s graduation, Pace has been elevated to QB1 for the 2023 season — the first for the Mustangs under the guidance of new Head Coach Brent Luplow.
The senior’s starting debut was a success on Aug. 25 against state-ranked Clarkston as Pace completed 7 of 14 passes for 195 yards and two touchdowns in the Mustangs’ emphatic 24-10 victory.
“I like the control the quarterback has of the offense and the leadership opportunities that present themselves,” Pace said. “I have to know where everyone is on the field because if one person is in the wrong spot, it can mess up the entire play.”
Rolling with the changes
Considering the schematic changes, Northville’s coaching transition impacted Pace as much as any player on the team, but he’s handled it with the cool, calm demeanor those who know him well expected.
“Coach Luplow has done a great job of communicating what he wants to see, reads he wants me to make on passing plays and my footwork on running plays,” Pace said. “He sends in all the formations before each play so everyone knows where to line up.
“Our 7-on-7 scrimmages went really well all summer. Myself and some of our receivers made sure to get some work in when it wasn’t required so we could build chemistry. Overall, the transition has gone really well.”
Pace said one of the biggest adjustments was starting plays under center after lining up in the shotgun formation 100% of the time under Head Coach Matt Ladach.
“I hadn’t started under center since probably seventh grade, but I got used to it pretty quickly,” he said. “Our running plays hit a little quicker when we’re not in shotgun, letting our running backs start running downhill quicker.”
When asked if he gets more satisfaction out of a 20-yard scramble or a 20-yard pass play, the dual-threat quarterback picked the pass.
“I’m happy doing whatever it takes, though,” he said.
Pace is an outstanding student and a talented pitcher for the Mustangs’ baseball team, which was ranked No. 1 in Division 1 for stretches this past spring.
Pace said he has an interest in possibly pursuing a career as a pilot.
But for now, he’s focused on leading aerial assignments on the football field, leaving clipboards in the rear-view mirror.
Ed Wright can be reached at 734-664-4657 or firstname.lastname@example.org.