ROSSVILLE, Ga. (WRCB) -- Quarterback is often the marquee position at any level of football.
He steals the spotlight and gets the headlines, getting the credit when teams have success and the blame when it all goes wrong.
Trevor Long is Ridgeland's quarterback, but he doesn't get the accolades and the attention.
He's a little more under the radar, behind the scenes and often overlooked in the Panthers' high-powered Wing-T rushing attack.
And it's just the way he likes it.
"We just do what we do, and that's run it and just pound it on people," Long said. "We have some of the greatest backs in the state, and I think the nation. That's all we do is just pound people."
Giving the ball to a stable of backs that includes all-American Vonn Bell, two-thousand yard rusher Darrell Bridges, and game-breakers Noah Cooper and Shaqualm McCoy has certainly been successful.
The Panthers have rushed for more than 4,7000 this season en route to Saturday's state championship game against Sandy Creek, and very few of them have come from Long.
Still, he may be the high-powered offense's most important, albeit secret, weapon.
"He is that piece of the puzzle that people overlook because he doesn't have the numbers," said head coach Mark Mariakis. "He doesn't run it much and we don't throw it much, but he's such a game manager that without him, I'm not sure we're at where we're at."
Mariakis calls Long a coach on the field, and he means it in every sense.
The unflappable senior is a leader in the huddle, especially in crunch time. He has a knack for identifying tendencies in the opposing defense and has become an expert at exploiting them, often telling coaches which plays to run.
"I talk to coach and say they're slanting one way, or something like that," Long said. "I just try to tell them what I see and just try to get the ball to the one that I think can take it to the house every time."
And he's usually right.
So much so, Mariakis and his coach rarely second-guess his suggestions.
"He comes back and says the linebacker is doing this or the line is doing that," Mariakis said. "He corrects our mistakes on play calls all the time. A lot of the times we'll give him a play, then realize we should be running something different.
"By the time we realize it, he's already waving us off and saying 'That's okay, I got it.'"
That's not to say Long can't throw it or the Panthers never do.
In fact, when Long does go to the air, he's usually successful.
"Some of our biggest plays this season have been his throws on fade routes or go routes," Mariakis said before adding with a smile, "but I guess it helps to be throwing the ball to Vonn Bell and guys like that."
The Panthers completed a pair of touchdown passes in last week's semifinal win over Marist, but neither came from Long. Bridges threw both off as part of a halfback pass trick play.
That means little to Long, though. The only numbers that matter to him are the ones in the win column.
"Any quarterback would say I want to throw it more, but I love how we run our offense," he said. "If we can get a state championship doing this, than I definitely love it."
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