Shannon Jarvis made a change to his football team this spring that few coaches would ever consider.
The Mill Creek head coach moved his three-year starting quarterback to receiver and his experienced wideout to QB.
It was a move that could have caused animosity between the two players and division within the team. It never did because Zach Landis and Ed Russ are the type of players that wouldn't let that happen. The result has been an offensive explosion with Landis now at receiver and Russ at quarterback for their senior seasons.
"The thing about it is both are fine competitors," Jarvis said. "Obviously, it was a big decision. They are two wonderful young men and probably the two best quarterbacks I've ever had."
When Mill Creek switched from its multiple I formation to the shotgun spread in the spring, Jarvis thought Russ might be better suited at quarterback.
"The change wasn't because Zach did a poor job," Jarvis said. "The change was because we wanted more offensive production. It wasn't like we benched one player for the other. We wanted to get more offensive production and we thought this would help."
Landis was a three-year starter at QB, throwing for 1,653 yards with 13 TDs last season, while Russ was third in the county in receptions last year with 43 catches and had 667 yards and eight TDs.
The two split reps at quarterback during spring practice, but eventually Russ began to get more snaps. That left Landis looking for another position and receiver seemed like the obvious spot.
"He was always reminding me how good his hands were," Jarvis said. "The thing that surprised me wasn't his hands, but he has an uncanny way of getting open."
By the end of spring practice, Jarvis realized Landis wasn't kidding about his hands and was making several spectacular catches in practice.
"With the change, there was nothing I could really do. I just had to accept it and know that it would be the best for the team," Landis said.
"I've been playing quarterback my whole life, so there was some jealousy at first. But you're not going to win by yourself. You have to have other people around you."
What could have been a distraction to the team only drew Landis and Russ closer. The two have been friends since the ninth grade, but once the position change was made they started spending more time together. The two would stay after practice to work on throwing and catching the ball, in addition to hanging out more often and spending the night at each other's house.
It wasn't until July that the two began to get fully comfortable at their new positions. Landis and Russ were selected to the Atlanta Falcons' all-star passing league team that competed in New Orleans.
"The camp was my first at wide receiver," Landis said. "It was a major confidence booster."
Through the first half of the season, Mill Creek is 3-2.
Is Jarvis still pleased with the change?
"If you look at our production from the first four games this year and the first four games last year, the answer is yes," Jarvis said.
And the numbers don't lie.
Mill Creek scored 46 points through the first four games last year. This year the Hawks doubled that with 95 points. The Hawks had 868 yards of total offense last year and have 1,017 this year.
"I think it's working," Russ said. "Zach was a great quarterback and always will be. I think it's working out pretty good."
Russ, also a physical runner, has 552 yards passing and two TDs and two interceptions this year.
"He's been on the field four years, but this is his first year at quarterback and he's gotten better at quarterback each week," Jarvis said.
Landis has flourished at receiver with 19 catches for 264 yards.
"Zach is a tremendous athlete," Russ said. "He's pretty good at whatever he does because he's a good athlete."
Six months later, a once risky move has turned out to be a great one for Mill Creek.
"These two boys are fine young men," Jarvis said. "I'll be honest, this could have blown up in our face, but I trusted them that it wouldn't and it would be better for the program."