Following in the footsteps of one of the state’s most prolific quarterbacks is a tall task, but one that Kai Spencer accepts with open arms.
The 6 foot 3 inch junior gunslinger is tasked with succeeding three-year starter Trenton Bourguet as Marana’s quarterback. Spencer, who started all of the Tigers games at wide receiver and safety in 2018, will try to replace Bourguet’s 2,460 passing yards from a year ago.
He’s not worried about one-upping his predecessor, however, keeping his attention fixated on doing whatever he needs to do to put himself and his teammates in a position to succeed this fall.
“I learned a lot from Trenton,” Spencer said. “I learned that you’ve just got to deal with it, and that you’ve just got to go out there and do your best every day. There isn’t any time for breaks, no time for mistakes.”
That one-two combination of confidence and poise is what led to second-year coach Louie Ramirez naming Spencer as his starting quarterback in spring camp.
Ramirez heaped praise on the tall quarterback, calling Spencer the right man for the job, as the Tigers look to make it to the state playoffs for the fourth straight year.
“I think the best thing about Kai is his coachability,” Ramirez said. “He’s a natural leader, works his tail off, and understands that if he’s not doing 110 percent, none of these guys are going to.”
Ramirez is confident that Spencer can add another dimension to the team’s offense this fall, with a unique combination of deft passing precision and athleticism in the pocket. He’s hopeful the young man’s ebbing confidence will allow him to master the team’s playbook in time for the Tigers’ opener against Scottsdale’s Horizon High School on Aug. 23.
“I think one of Kai’s biggest attributes is just his ability to motivate, and push guys to his standard,” Ramirez said. “Because he’s a competitor in everything that he does. And he started 10 games for us last year as a true sophomore. A lot of guys are rallying behind him and believing in him.”
One of the keys to Spencer’s development as a quarterback is his ability to read defenses and make timely throws.
Much of that, according to Spencer, comes from his love of watching game footage to dissect each of his throws from past seasons.
Spencer said his love of watching and breaking down film has drawn the attention of his parents, who he said are amazed at his dedication to his craft.
All that mundane work is worth it for Spencer, so he can put himself and his teammates in a position to be successful.
The thrill of competition is what drives the young man, and what gets him hyped and motivated through the slog of summer practice.
“I love those Friday night lights,” he said. “That’s really special because you’ve got the whole school behind you. They’re living and dying with every play, and that’s pretty cool.”
For Ramirez, having a student of the game under center allows him to push the envelope during spring and summer practice.
Ramirez, who previously served as a graduate assistant at Truman State and Northern Arizona University, admires Spencer’s willingness to break down film and to never settle for the status quo. He’s hopeful that the team’s work during the offseason can put Spencer in position to succeed out of the gate, pushing the Tigers to newfound heights as a program.
“Kai’s a natural thrower, it just comes naturally to him,” Ramirez said. “Above all else, he’s coachable. He’s in here watching film, he’s wanting to understand the scheme and what we’re doing.”
The lifelong Marana resident knows how much Tigers football means to the town, with blue and gold migrating its way into the everyday life of residents of all ages.
He’s thrilled to have the opportunity to start for Ramirez on Aug. 23, and to show the rest of the state that he’s more than capable of picking up where Bourguet left off.
“It means a lot to me to fill their shoes,” Spencer said. “So, I’m hoping to do the best I can, both for myself and for this program.”