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QB play pivotal in playoffs

With less than minute remaining in last year's state semifinals, former Grayson quarterback Nick Schuessler threw the biggest pass of his life.

It was a six-yard touchdown strike that sent Grayson to the state championship game.

"We had to have that," Grayson head coach Mickey Conn said.

The game-winning throw is the kind of play quarterbacks dream about every night. For a small group of Gwinnett QBs they'll get their chance tonight when the first round of the state playoffs begin.

A team's quarterback play in the postseason can mean the difference in a first-round loss or a deep playoff run.

"I think it's the difference in winning a state championship is how your quarterback plays," Conn said.

The quarterback position is the most high-profile spot in sports. As much a strong running game and good defense help, there are times when you have to be able to complete a pass on third down to keep a drive alive.

"If you're one dimensional in the playoffs, then you're going to get stopped," Norcross head coach Keith Maloof said. "You have to be able to throw the ball."

That's where quarterback play comes into the equation. It's more than just having a strong arm and completing a pass. It's having that poise in the huddle, the moxie to run for a first down, or the guts to throw in tight coverage.

"He has to have poise to stay calm under pressure," Conn said. "You can't have any fear. You can't be scared to make a mistake."

Of the 11 Gwinnett QBs making starts tonight, Norcross's Joseph Wilber, Collins Hill's Brett Sheehan and Brookwood's Zach Moon have the most experience. The trio are making their second playoff appearance.

"I think in the league we play in, the quarterback has to play good," Maloof said. "How Joseph goes is how we go."

The other eight QBs are making their first postseason start. Parkview's Mac Marshall and Wesleyan's Will Anderson have their teams back in the playoffs after missing the postseason last year. GAC's Rafe Chapple and Buford's QB tandem of Montgomery VanGorder and Taylor Mitchell take the reins have their teams primed for deep playoff runs.

South Gwinnett's Jordan Ramey appears to be in playoff form already. The QB has guided fourth-quarter comebacks the last two weeks.

"He's grown up a lot the last couple of weeks. He's had to make plays late in the game," South head coach John Small said. "When the playoffs hit, I don't want someone that's going to panic and do different things."

Grayson's David McTier hasn't put up numbers like his predecessor, but has been just as effective. He has a 60 percent completion rating and even more important hasn't thrown an interception this year.

"You have to protect the football," Conn said.

Mill Creek's Daniel David is the youngest of the group. The sophomore was thrusted into action before the season started by default and has flourished. He has a 57.1 percent completion rating with 1,354 yards with 12 TDs and just three INTs.

North's Michael Haynes has been the county's most versatile QB. The first-year starter has thrown for 1,760 yards and 21 TDs and rushed for 618 yards and three TDs. His resume includes guiding a last-minute drive to beat Colquitt County in the season opener.

"I think the bigger the situation, the bigger he plays," North head coach Bob Sphire said.

There's no bigger stage than the state playoffs. Teams are five wins away from winning that coveted state title. That success usually rides on the play of the quarterback.

"If he's able to lead a fourth-quarter comeback it helps, but it doesn't fall solely on him," Small said.