ELKINS -- Elkins faced uncertainty whether it could follow last year's nine-win season after graduating a handful of seniors, including the quarterback.
Those questions have been answered with the addition of a sophomore quarterback who is only 16 years old. Quinn McClain has had an outstanding season and he'll be behind center again tonight when the Elks (9-2) host Atkins (9-2) in a Class 3A second-round playoff game at John Bunch Field.
At A Glance
NOTABLE Stepped into the starting role this season and has flourished, completing 153 of 253 passes for 2,476 yards and 31 touchdowns with eight interceptions. … Also a dangerous runner with 314 yards on 52 carries with six touchdowns. … Has led the team to a nine-win season heading into today’s Class 3A second-round playoff game at home against Atkins. … Also plays basketball and baseball.
Elkins finished 9-3 last season with running back Colton Vaught and quarterback Jake Strode, who passed for over 2,000 yards and 19 touchdowns, leading the way. The Elkins offense has continued to roll with McClain, who has thrown for 2,476 yards and 31 touchdowns with eight interceptions. He accounted for three touchdowns last week when Elkins opened postseason play with a 44-30 victory over the Fordyce Redbugs.
Elkins coach Chad Harbison describes his young quarterback as a quiet leader who has the respect of his older teammates.
"We knew Quinn was going to be special," Harbison said. "The only question was what he was going to be like week in and week out. But he's been very consistent and he does a great job of taking care of the football. That respect from his teammates comes by how he plays. Those guys up front are going to battle for him because they know he is going to battle for them."
McClain wears No. 23, which is an odd number for a quarterback. But McClain said he chose 23 because it was the number his older half-brother, Mackenzie Leichner, wore as a quarterback for the Elks in 2011.
"Mackenzie was my role model," McClain said. "He was a good player and he pretty much taught me everything I know about football."
McClain didn't have much time to adjust in his transition from a junior high to a varsity quarterback. His first start came against Shiloh Christian, a Class 4A school that advanced to the state semifinals last season.
The Saints beat the Elks 50-30 in the season-opener at Champions Stadium in Springdale.
"I realized right then how difficult high school (football) was going to be," McClain said. "By the second game, against West Fork, I started feeling more comfortable in what I was doing. The receivers are much faster and the defensive backs are much faster in senior high. There are a ton of more plays and you have to learn all of them."
McClain (6-foot-2, 190 pounds) fared better against West Fork, then took command in a 38-33 win over Huntsville, where he was 19 of 31 passing with four touchdowns and one interception.
Besides football, McClain also plays basketball and baseball for the Elks. That busy schedule ensures he is fit and ready to go in whatever sport he is playing at the time.
But football, especially in playing quarterback, is his favorite sport.
"People underestimate how strong he is," Harbison said. "I've seen guys hanging on him where he was still able to make some unbelievable throws downfield. They get their hand on him and they can't get him on the ground."
Elkins' season came to an end in the second round of the playoffs last year in a 45-13 defeat at Glen Rose. But Elkins has the advantage of playing at home tonight against Atkins, which has won three consecutive games since losing 42-20 to Charleston.
Tonight's winner will advance to face either Newport or McGehee in the third round next week.
"We have to execute like we did against Fordyce," said McClain, who also plays safety for the Elks. "We have to score and, on defense, they run pretty much the same thing we do. So, we'll be ready."
Sports on 11/17/2017
Print Headline: Win With Quinn Sophomore quarterback leads Elkins offense