Eight-man football is known for big plays and huge scores. Having six less players on the field creates open space for playmakers to take full advantage.
Superior High School quarterback Nicolaus Cruz has done exactly that. Leading the Panthers to a 7-0 start, the junior quarterback has 31 total touchdowns to just one interception.
Six of those came in a 62-37 victory over Gilbert Christian that gave Superior the section title. This wasn’t always like this for Superior. A team of predominantly underclassman took their lumps, going 7-11 the past two years.
Many of the playmakers on this current Superior team are now juniors and look right at home in their third year of varsity play.
“Experience is everything,” Superior head football coach Ryan Palmer said. “That experience is invaluable. Plus, we have a ton of talented kids who work hard.”
Cruz also had an interception and sack on the defensive side of the ball Friday night. It might be tough to juggle playing both sides of the ball, but the junior says contributing in multiple phases of the game is the norm for the Panthers.
“Honestly, it all happens with this team,” Cruz said. “It’s not just one person. It’s our Superior varsity team. And everyone knows it’s hard work. In practice, you’re working hard and it’s all worth it on these Friday nights.”
For the 2015 Superior team, Friday nights have been synonymous with winning. With many of their playmakers being juniors like Cruz, there’s a good chance that won’t change.
“He’s a heck of an athlete as you can see. He did an awesome job leading this team to victory tonight,” Palmer said. “I’m really, really proud of him and he’s only a junior…I’m really excited for this kid’s future as well.”
For this Superior team, the near future will include a playoff push, and the Panther faithful are hopeful for a Division VI state title.