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Williamsburg QB Carson Huedepohl returns from knee injuries with success at a new position
A mid-season switch from No. 24 to No. 7 was necessary for the 9-0 Raiders’ new QB
WILLIAMSBURG — Carson Huedepohl’s mettle has been tested.
First, there was an ACL injury in a state football quarterfinal loss his sophomore season. He was on the road to recovery from surgery when he reinjured his knee doing casual activities, resulting in another operation and a missed football season.
The Williamsburg senior worked his way back and was quickly asked to move from tailback to quarterback, a position he hadn’t played at the varsity level. His passion for football helped him ace the tests of ligament tears and role changes.
“Going through that injury was a setback but I love the sport so I stuck with it,” Huedepohl said. “I went to the gym a lot and focused on that. It’s just a great feeling to step back out on that field, being able to play again. I’m really enjoying the senior season. It’s going pretty well.”
Huedepohl has helped No. 2 Williamsburg post one of the most dominant seasons, entering Friday night’s Class 2A second-round playoff football game against Mid-Prairie at Bob Murphy Stadium. He has accounted for 1,549 total offensive yards and 27 touchdowns, including 1,087 and 15 through the air.
“Coming into the season, we knew we didn’t have an established quarterback,” Raiders Coach Curt Ritchie said. “We just started having him take half the reps there. First-team tailback, second-team quarterback, making sure he was prepared if we needed him to go in there. He’s just kind of won that position stability-wise.”
Any position would have been welcome to someone consumed with rehab than running plays for almost two years. Huedepohl never expected to miss the 2021 season, but when he realized his knee was weak and “popped out” four months after the initial procedure.
Then there was the swelling while running routes during catch with his dad, Brian. It led to an MRI that uncovered another tear, which meant going under the knife again.
“It set me back to my senior season,” Huedepohl said. “I had to make something happen this year.
“You have to stay strong during those times. My dad really helped me out through that, and my family, too. Got in the gym and got worked on.”
Being idle isn’t in Huedepohl’s nature. Sitting on the sidelines and observing was hard, though necessary. The Raiders needed him to be there with his teammates and to learn by watching, even if he would rather be in the gym getting himself physically ready to return.
“He’s kind of a workaholic. He loves to work out and that is his passion,” Ritchie said. “He wanted to work out and do his rehab. He was much more comfortable going to do that, then watch practice. We had to explain to him to the balance of still being engaged with your teammates and getting your work done. He did a nice job of doing both.”
The Raiders advanced to the state semifinals, losing by a score to eventual runner-up West Lyon. Huedepohl was on the sideline. He had to settle for being a supporter instead of a contributor.
“We’ve been through a lot of stuff together,” Huedepohl said. “We’ve grown up playing sports together. It was definitely really tough. I was really excited to see they made it to the Dome, so not being able to compete with them was the hardest part. We’ve been a tough, strong group of kids.”
Huedepohl rushed for more than 400 yards two years ago. He expected to step back into that ball-carrier role. With inexperience under center, Williamsburg started to work him at quarterback. The effort started in the summer and included reserve reps.
The move to QB came in the second half of the season opener against Iowa City Regina. Huedepohl’s fate was sealed, necessitating a jersey change from No. 24 to No. 7 for the Week 3 game against Solon.
“We think he’s our most natural ball carrier with vision, cuts and running ability,” Ritchie said. “We decided to make that change,” Ritchie said. “He had been practicing there, so we put him in and we’ve stayed that way.
“I think he’s always had the desire to play quarterback. I think that’s what he always wanted to do. His dad was a quarterback. We had a need when he was younger at tailback. That was the fastest way to get him on the field.”
Huedepohl didn’t hesitate to honor the request. He was willing to do whatever was asked.
“I was in it for the team,” Huedepohl said. “Whatever he wanted, I’d do.”
Quarterback is a more cerebral position compared to running back. He had to adjust and become a student of defenses and reads. This was much more advanced than seeing running lanes and accelerating through them.
Huedepohl puts in the work to make the right in-game decisions. He also knows he has talented targets. Derek Weisskopf has 411 receiving yards and eight TDs on 26 catches. Madox Doehrmann has 18 catches for 220 yards and Clayten Steckly has 203 yards and three scores.
“Instincts are good but you definitely have to be watching film for the quarterback spot, seeing how cornerbacks play,” said Huedepohl, whose father was a Raiders quarterback who went on to play at Concordia University in Wisconsin. “You can see that before they snap the ball. If they’re up tight you know what route they have on. I have really good receivers out there. I know they’ll break loose and make something happen for me.”
Williamsburg’s senior class has earned its share of wins and honors. Ritchie said most agree that Huedepohl is one of the top athletes in the group. He prefers his actions do the talking and that has garnered respect from his peers, regardless of what role he plays.
“He leads by example,” Ritchie said. “He’s quiet. He’s not real verbal, but he’s always going to do the right thing and work extremely hard. I think everybody looks up to him for his ability and his work ethic.”