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Hart's Cory Mayes and Connor Wingenroth: Different, but it works

Two things are odd about Hart football in 2011 — two quarterbacks have shared duties

Posted: October 13, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: October 13, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Hart football has gotten off to a 4-1 start this season thanks in part to the dual quarterback system of senior Cory Mayes, left, and sophomore Connor Wingenroth. Hart football has gotten off to a 4-1 start this season thanks in part to the dual quarterback system of senior Cory Mayes, left, and sophomore Connor Wingenroth.
Hart football has gotten off to a 4-1 start this season thanks in part to the dual quarterback system of senior Cory Mayes, left, and sophomore Connor Wingenroth.

Mike Herrington didn’t hesitate when he was asked how many times he remembers starting a sophomore quarterback on varsity.

“Never,” says the 23rd year Hart High football head coach.

By Hart standards, this season’s quarterback situation has been nontraditional to say the least.

Whatever one wants to call it, there’s no denying it’s been effective.

Not only has the team switched off between two players at the position for most of the first half of the season, but one of those players — Connor Wingenroth — is just a sophomore.

Wingenroth started the first two games of the season at quarterback and had a significant amount of playing time under center in the first four games.

Fortunately for Wingenroth, he didn’t find out until later that he was Herrington’s first sophomore starter. He had no idea he was making history when Hart opened its season on Sept. 2 against Tesoro High of Rancho Santa Margarita.

He was nervous either way.

“I knew some of the pressure was on me but I was going to have to get the ball around to (all the offensive weapons) and the line would do the rest,” the sophomore says.

Enter senior Cory Mayes.

The 17-year-old started every game under center for the Indians last year and had the starting job in his grasp this season before losing it due to an unexpected illness in the preseason.

It would be easy to call it a quarterback controversy, or at least an unusual circumstance, but that’s now how the team perceived it.

“That’s the way people look at it that don’t know the story or the whole situation because they don’t go to practice every day,” says senior linebacker Joey Cicoria. “Whoever is going to play hard and play it well is going to play.”

The story Cicoria refers to dates back to July, when Mayes won the starting job at signal caller over Wingenroth during summer passing leagues.

A few weeks later, Mayes came down with mononucleosis and had to miss the first three weeks of training camp in August.

The pendulum swung back to Wingenroth, who had to step in with the first team and quickly learn the offense.

Mayes returned to practice about two weeks before the start of the season, but he was nowhere near full strength
“It sucked,” Mayes says of sitting out. “Especially after I came back after passing league, it was just kind of a downer on my whole strength and everything, and it was probably tough for the team too because they were used to me throwing them passes and all that.”

Though Wingenroth started against Tesoro, both players took snaps in the game, which finished in a 35-21 Hart loss.

“I wasn’t concerned,” Herrington says. “At the time we didn’t know if Cory was going to be cleared for the first game, so really Connor took all the reps at that time.”

Herrington’s reassurance began to manifest itself on the field, and Hart won four games in a row to finish preleague play 4-1.

Cicoria, who has gotten to know both players this season, argues all the chaos actually turned out to be a positive for the team.

“At the beginning of the season during summer, I didn’t really pay attention to the quarterback situation,” Cicoria says, “but it kind of grew to be a team thing because we never really knew who it was going to be and we all had to step up.”

The two players continued to split time as Mayes regained his strength that was lost during his bout with mono.

Wingenroth started again in week two against Palmdale, while Mayes started the next three games as he slowly began to find his groove again.

“It’s hard to get back in there mentally and physically at the same time because you’ve got to make those reads and you’ve got to make those throws,” Mayes says.

Both players contributed heavily to Hart’s four consecutive wins to move the Indians to 4-1 headed into Foothill League play.

While Mayes has re-taken his role as starting quarterback, Wingenroth’s role on the team is in no way diminished.

He’ll continue to play some defensive back and slot receiver, as he has throughout the season.

“We knew he was an excellent athlete and he was going to do some things for us,” Herrington says of his first impressions of Wingenroth. “It was just a matter of having a sophomore at varsity. He skipped JV and didn’t get that extra year of experience.”

The ultimate irony came in Hart’s third game against Burroughs of Burbank on Sept. 15, when Wingenroth hauled in a 9-yard touchdown pass thrown by Mayes.

“Its been fun playing different positions just getting around on the field, helping out as much as I can,” Wingenroth says.

“Me and (Mayes) both going at it at quarterback just making each other compete. It makes us better every day.”

Will the two-quarterback system continue to be effective for Hart? Time will tell.

What is certain is the Indians have made it work so far.

And perhaps the team is better for it.


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