By Ryan Lengerich
Last season as wide receiver junior Chris McCasland was the feature target for Rattlers quarterback Sam Nunn.
Now as quarterback he assumes a new role — as every opposing defensive player’s feature target.
Raised in Tucumcari, McCasland developed as a wide receiver throughout grade school. After a short stint as running back in eighth grade, he returned to his natural position at Tucumcari High School. His breakout season arrived last year when he earned first team district honors as both wide receiver and safety.
He was forewarned early following last year’s state championship that he would be taking the snaps this season. After completing summer training and preseason McCasland said he is ready for his first official snap.
“I am feeling really comfortable going into this game,” he said. “I am kind of anxious to play a full game as quarterback.”
McCasland has been a lifelong Dallas Cowboys fan and grew up admiring retired Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman. He watched football with his father as a child and has had his family’s support throughout his athletic career.
“My family all believes in me, they all have faith in me and they all know I can do anything I want,” he said. “My mom I swear has gone to every one of my games since I was little, everywhere I go she goes.”
As quarterback McCasland knows big hits are inevitable when running and releasing the ball. But he said having taken his share of knocks as a receiver will help the transition.
“Every time you are on a quick slant you are going to get hit no matter what,” he said. “I’m not scared to get hit.”
Rattlers junior wide receiver Nick Wiegel will be McCasland’s first target this season. He said McCasland puts significant pressure on himself to succeed, a characteristic Wiegel believes is beneficial.
“If he threw a bad ball to me and then just blew it off I don’t think he would work harder next time,” Wiegel said. “I think it is better for him, it makes him think harder about the next play and want to play harder.”
Rattlers head coach Dub Smith said based on McCasland’s athletic ability there was no doubt he would lead this year’s team. In his sixth season developing the system at Tucumcari, Smith said McCasland has had the benefit of playing under the same system since seventh grade.
Smith has made a point to drill McCasland in the position’s fundamentals, which he said will help him make better decisions throughout the season.
“Right now he has done an outstanding job and before the year is over he is going to be a tremendous quarterback,” Smith said.
If inheriting the quarterback reigns is not pressure enough, McCasland does so following the school’s first state championship in nearly 50 years. He said leading the team to back-to-back championships is something himself, his teammates and the fans expect.
“It would bother me if we didn’t win a state championship because everyone is counting on it,” he said. “Everyone is always counting on it.”