Photo: Messenger file photo by Chris McCarthy
By Shannon J. Allen, Sand Mtn. Reporter
West End High School head football coach Kyle Davis is excited about what the 2020 season holds, both for his team and its leader, senior quarterback Eli Pearce.
Last year, Pearce finished with 3,154 yards and 43 touchdowns at the controls of the Patriots’ spread offense. Coaches voted him the offensive most valuable player on the All-Etowah County team, and the Alabama Sports Writers Association selected him honorable mention All-State in Class 2A. Pearce also was the Offensive Player of the Year for the 2019 All-Messenger team.
Pearce completed 153-of-328 passes for 2,386 yards and 32 touchdowns in his first season as the starting quarterback. He rushed 87 times for 768 yards and 11 TDs.
“The biggest thing about Eli is he’s just stayed humble [and] he’s kept working,” Davis said. “He didn’t miss a day working out during this COVID stuff. He’d message me every day, ‘Hey, what would the workout be today,’ and we’d give it to him. He came back probably stronger than he’s ever been.”
Huntingdon and Birmingham-Southern have offered scholarships to Pearce.
“There’s a couple of Division III schools up north that have been talking to Eli, and there’s some D-II schools and D-I schools talking to him,” Davis said. “He’s probably got 10 or 12 Division I schools that have asked about him and been in contact with him. Not having spring [practice] kind of hurt his recruiting, because people were going to come see him throw.”
The coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of spring practice and spring jamborees.
“I feel like we had a great spring game set up,” Davis said. “We were going to play Red Bay, [who was] 12-0 last year until Fyffe beat them. It was going to be a great challenge for us.
“We feel like we have a pretty decent team coming back, but we needed to be tested and challenged, and that would’ve tested Eli. [College coaches] could have seen him against a good defense.”
In Week 8 last year against Gaston, Pearce accounted for 437 yards total offense and five touchdowns in a 46-28 West End victory. He finished 14-of-20 passing for 220 yards and three scores and rushed for a career-high 217 yards, including touchdown runs of 80 and 78 yards.
“Last year was Eli’s first year to play quarterback,” Davis said. “He reminded me a lot of Hunter Grant. His first year he did a lot of really good things, but I don’t think he really understood what we were doing. He learned a lot over that year, and I think that’s where Eli is at right now.”
Grant, who currently is an assistant football coach at West End, quarterbacked the Patriots in 2014 and 2015, which were Davis’ first two seasons in Walnut Grove. As a senior, Grant helped the Patriots post their first winning season in eight years while throwing for 2,611 yards and 31 scores and rushing for 817 yards and 12 touchdowns.
“I really feel like the success Eli had last year was based a lot on how good of a ballplayer he is,” Davis said. “If he develops the way he needs to, in learning the position, learning coverages and learning our opponent, and if he really gets to studying the game, I think Eli will be the best player on the field out of any team that we play.”