Written by SportsDayDFW.com
QBs of Wylie, Denton Ryan lead without much prior experience
Wylie coach Bill Howard has a saying.
"When you don't make the playoffs," he said, "the off-season starts early."
And for Wylie and even Denton Ryan, which advanced to the regional final before bowing out to Denton Guyer, the off-season was already under way this time last year.
But a year later both teams are alive and riding high thanks in large part to the play of two quarterbacks who did not start a game last year.
Nash Knight of Ryan and Nico Ramirez of Wylie combined to attempt 29 passes in 2009 and now have their teams one win away from the state championship game.
But the two seniors, despite sharing characteristics that have endeared them to teammates and coaches, haven't taken the same path to success.
Knight had the significant edge over Ramirez in playing time last season despite backing up Texas Gatorade Player of the Year Scotty Young.
All Young did was lead the area with 4,467 passing yards and 64 touchdowns before heading to Texas Tech. That meant big shoes to fill for someone who spent most of last season giving Young signals from the sideline.
But Ryan coach Joey Florence said Knight was ready from Day 1, making the team his with his winning attitude and infectious personality.
"He got up, did the morning weight-lifting sessions, and in the summer he gave up his summer baseball to focus on football and get healthy," Florence said.
Knight is not filling up the stat sheet as Young did, largely because of a change in offensive philosophy.
But that's helped Knight ease into the role after initially feeling pressure to match the numbers of his friend Young.
"I saw how well our defense was playing and how well Kaylon [Alexander] was running," he said, "and pretty much just tried to build off that."
And Knight has bested Young in two categories: He has an incredible 7-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio and has his team 14-0 and in the state semifinal - the two categories Florence has told him matter all season.
For Howard, what has been most important has been seeing his team come together and play for each other.
And Ramirez is the perfect example of that.
The senior came into the season splitting time with Jose Rivas, who threw one pass before tearing his ACL. Ramirez said that was hard despite knowing he had the starting spot.
"Without him, I wouldn't be where I'm at," he said. "He's always pushed me."
But Ramirez accepted the challenge to be the starter and continued to push himself, despite playing with back spasms, and then suffering a dislocated shoulder later.
"Nico's a warrior," Howard said. "I would hate to be the guy that tells Nico he can't go out there."
Howard believes that attitude has spread throughout the team. And Howard and Florence are happy their quarterbacks have that attitude.
"He's a very high character person. And I think he's very loyal," Howard said of Ramirez. He also could've been describing Knight. "Those are qualities that are important to coaches and the people that you work with."