There are plenty of ways to win football games. But any coach will tell you, it's always easier when you have a quality quarterback.
Five teams chasing state titles across the country may depend on their quarterbacks more than any others. But that's a good thing - since all five excel.
This being the modern-day game, each seemingly does it differently.
Justin Worley of Rock Hill (S.C.) Northwestern is the best pure passer of the bunch and is most comfortable in the pocket.
Marquise Williams of Charlotte (N.C.) Mallard Creek can run if he needs to, but he prefers to pass.
Conor Bravard of West Des Moines (Iowa) Dowling Catholic and Michael Nebrich of Burke (Va.) Lake Braddock can run or throw. They'll beat you with whatever part of their game you can't stop.
And then's there's Bubba Starling of Gardner (Kan.) Gardner-Edgerton, a throwback quarterback if there ever was one. He'd be happy to run the ball on every play. And he'd make you pay.
Like we said, there are plenty of ways (for quarterbacks) to win football games.
Here's a closer look at these five:
Quarterbacks who will need to lead their teams to titles
Conor Bravard (6-0/180), Senior, West Des Moines (Iowa) Dowling Catholic
Current standings: No. 2 in Class 5A, 12-0
What he does: Bravard does a little of everything as a breakout player in Iowa this season. Entering the season as a relative unknown, Bravard did not disappoint taking over for All-State player Michael Hudson - in fact, he may lead the team to new heights. As the playoffs approach their climax in Iowa, Bravard has Dowling on the doorstep to the finals. He is second on the team in rushing with 902 yards and 15 touchdowns and has completed 116-of-180 passes for 1,819 yards and 19 touchdowns against just five interceptions. If Dowling is to win a state title, it will be because of him.
If he went down: It would be devastating for Dowling. The team would be reliant on junior quarterback Dan Hartleib and his 11 career pass attempts to take the team to the title. The running situation would be hurt as well because the playmaking ability of Bravard would then rest squarely on the shoulders of Dalton Parrott. Parrott leads the team with 945 yards and 20 touchdowns but his production alone would not suffice.
Current standings: No. 9 in Class AAA, 9-1
What he does: Nebrich has drawn some of the highest compliments in the state of Virginia and has the leadership skills that have caused many to call him a Tim Tebow-esque player. For Lake Braddock to make any kind of noise in the playoffs, it will be on the legs and the arm of Nebrich who is the team's No. 1 weapon. As a junior, Nebrish piled up 3,290 yards passing and 1,231 rushing. This season, he is at 658 rushing yards and 2,403 passing, while being able to sit at the end of many games. His ability to lead the offense down the field is what makes Lake Braddock move, so much so that his coach Jim Poythres has said that his team may struggle to have a winning record without him.
If he went down: Like Coach Poythres said, the team would struggle to win the majority of its games and would likely make an early exit in the playoffs. The next leading rusher on the team has all of 128 yards and the next leading passer has totaled 328 on the season. It would not be pretty for the Bruins.
Current standings: No. 2 in Class 5A, 9-0
What he does: Starling is the best player in the state of Kansas this year and he is leading Gardner-Edgerton toward a head-on collision with nationally-ranked Hutchinson for the Class 5A state title. Starling is a glorified running back playing quarterback for the Trailblazers. He has completed fewer than half of his passes, but he's well under 100 attempts on the year. (The most he has dropped back in a game is just 13 times.) Instead, his ability to run the ball is what makes it difficult for teams to contain him as he has gone over 2,000 yards rushing on the season. Every game, save for one when he didn't play through the second quarter, was a 100-yard campaign on the ground and he has gone over 190 yards in a game five times this season.
If he went down: Kiss it goodbye. This is one of the highest-scoring teams in the country this year and that is largely due to the play of Starling. The team would likely crumble without him. The backup quarterback, Tanner Webb, has played sparingly this season and while the rest of the team is talented, it likely could not do enough to make up for the loss of Starling and get a state final victory. The run game would fall onto the legs of Brett Jensen, the featured back for G-E. Jensen has more than 1,000 yards himself this season and opposing defenses respect his play, but without Starling, it would be easier to key on him to slow the attack.
Current standings: No. 2 in Class 4A, 11-0
What he does: Williams turns programs around. A leading candidate for player of the year in North Carolina, Williams has taken Mallard Creek from consecutive 1-10 seasons to consecutive 11-win seasons in his time at the helm. On the season, Williams has thrown for over 2,500 yards and 39 touchdowns and is pushing the rest of the team to be better as well. He is more of a pure passer than a dual-threat player but he is athletic enough to break the pocket when needed. His 740 yards on the ground signal that defenses need to respect his legs, but his first choice naturally is to air it out. With a lot of talented teams in North Carolina this year, leading a young program to a state title would cement his status as the Player of the Year.
If he goes down: North Carolina would be wide open. The Mavericks use a relatively balanced attack offensively. Williams acts as a point guard, spreading the ball to a number of recievers as well as allowing multiple running backs to have good seasons. No player would be able to fill in for what he is cumulatively capable of doing. Add to that the backup quarterback, Isaiah Lassiter, is really a running back who would have to line up at quarterback and improvise. Williams is the heart and soul of this team. Losing him would be like letting the air out of the balloon.
Current standings: No. 1 in Class 4A, 11-0
What he does: Worley runs the offense for the Trojans. He is an offensive coordinator on the field and has seen it all. Teams have tried blitzing all out, zones, zone-blitzes ... even dropping all 11 players into coverage against Worley ... and all he has done is set the all-time passing yards record in South Carolina for his career. He has elevated his game from being just a good story to a serious college prospect in his time at the helm and has kept the Rock Hill area on the national radar with his play. He doesn't run the ball and would be more of a reminder of Drew Bledsoe than Steve Young, but he can read defenses and has been piling up the points. This season, Worley has thrown for just under 4,000 yards and 50 touchdowns against just seven interceptions.
If he went down: Northwestern would not be out of the second round of the playoffs. The team is predicated on the passing ability of Worley, and to switch the horse mid-stream would lead to failure. Even in routs, the team has not developed its backup quarterback as junior Matt Turney has thrown just 13 passes this season. The Trojans only run the ball to show that they have run plays in the playbook, with the leading ball carrier rushing 88 times for under 500 yards. A philosophical change in attack would be impossible. For Northwestern to complete its run to a state title, Worley has to lead the way.