Conner Alubowicz races laterally with a football cocked above his right shoulder, tossing a dart to a nearby teammate.
The rising Catalina Foothills High School senior is a larger than life figure around the football team, measuring in at 6 feet 6 inches tall.
Alubowicz has won the acclaim of first-year coach Darius Kelly, who played as a safety at Syracuse University and in the National Football League.
Kelly heaped praise on Alubowicz during a team practice in late June, calling Alubowicz a star in the making.
“Conner, from day one, has been a leader for us,” Kelly said. “From day one, he was that guy that was there every day. He’s the first one here and he’s the last one to leave. He’s constantly pushing his teammates. He knows the playbook like the back of his hand. It is amazing to see him do what he does on a daily basis.”
Such high praise for a quarterback that’s accumulated 5 passing yards and as many offensive touchdowns in his three-year career may seem odd, but numbers don’t tell the full tale, according to Kelly. Alubowicz has come into his own of-late, with a rocket arm and excellent mobility under center.
For the young man, the ability to take the starting spot at quarterback ahead of the team’s preseason camp in August is huge. It allows him greater time with receivers and tight ends over the summer.
He’s confident that the long hours spent running through Kelly’s playbook with his offensive brethren will pay off, with greater camaraderie breeding better success this fall.
Alubowicz rattled off a list of reasons why he enjoys playing quarterback at the high school level, but the ability to guide the team forward is his main motivation.
“I like how there’s a lot of pressure on me and that I have the biggest impact on the game out of all other positions,” he said. “So, I know if I work hard then the team is going to do well along with that.”
Alubowicz has won over teammates, like fellow senior Will Parker, who will see time at tight end and linebacker this fall.
“He’s a really good leader and we all have trust in him,” Parker said. “So, when you have trust in your quarterback that means you can go full speed and trust that he’ll make the right things.”
Alubowicz said he’s thrilled to show what he and his teammates can do in the Falcons’ season opener against Kelly’s high school alma mater, Buena, in the team’s season opener on Aug. 23.
“Hopefully we can make coach Kelly proud,” Alubowicz said. “Hopefully we can catch a win here at home. And Buena’s a good 5A team, so hopefully we can start the season with a hard-earned win.”
Getting that win will require the Falcons to stay focused on memorizing the intricacies of Kelly’s playbook on both sides of the ball.
Kelly is confident that Alubowicz is the right man for the job, with a head full of confidence and an ability to make everyone around him better.
“I want to see Conner continue to get everyone else around him better and continue to push the kids who aren’t at his level of work ethic,” Kelly said. “And he’s been doing that, but I want him to grab more of these kids and really pull them around him and show them what it takes to be successful.”
The Falcons didn’t have that type of leadership at the quarterback position a year ago, according to Alubowicz, resulting in a 5-6 season that led to a first-round playoff exit.
Alubowicz knows that there needs to be greater buy-in from players of all ages to reach greater levels of success on the field.
He’s confident that Kelly’s coaching staff has done what’s necessary to put the team in a position to thrive this fall, and he’s thrilled to see where the squad can go in the future with a roster full of talent and a lack of discord on the field.
“I think our struggles last year had a lot to do with our mentality and I think last year we didn’t fight as well as we needed to,” Alubowicz said. “So, as far as this year, everyone is on board and actually pushing and doing their best. I think that as long as everyone gives their all, we could have a more successful season.”