High School Football

He’s played receiver, running back and linebacker for Nooksack, now he calls signals

Mount Baker’s Carson Engholm, right, tackles Nooksack Valley’s in 2017. O’Bryan took an unusual route to becoming the starting quarterback for the Pioneers and has produced some memorable moments as they prepare for NWC 1A play.
Mount Baker’s Carson Engholm, right, tackles Nooksack Valley’s in 2017. O’Bryan took an unusual route to becoming the starting quarterback for the Pioneers and has produced some memorable moments as they prepare for NWC 1A play. eabell@bhamherald.com

In Robb Myhre’s 19 years as Nooksack Valley’s football coach, not many established varsity players have switched from another position to start for the first time at quarterback as a senior.

At Whatcom County’s four Class 1A schools, including Nooksack, the head coaches have more than 100 years combined experience. Seldom have they started their quarterback at inside linebacker.

Throw in a 3.9 grade-point average, and that shows an unusual player, indeed, is calling the signals for the Pioneers. Austin O’Bryan has guided Nooksack to a 2-0 start after playing wide receiver as a sophomore and running back as a junior.

The personable, articulate scholar-athlete wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Now I’m where I want to be,” said O’Bryan, who played junior varsity quarterback as a freshman and learned much the past two seasons from Casey Bauman, now on scholarship at Montana State. “I really like playing quarterback.”

His rushing skills — he led Nooksack last season with 832 yards on 136 carries for a 6.1 average and 11 touchdowns — have made his transition to quarterback less stressful.

“We haven’t had too many seniors start for the first time at quarterback,” Myhre said. “I think he is really passionate about football.”

The sturdy 5-foot-8, 185-pound O’Bryan, who also figures to start for the fourth year at catcher in baseball, is well aware this is likely his only season as a quarterback. He treasures every moment.

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Meridian’s Manny Sabalza, left, stops Nooksack Valley’s Austin O’Bryan in a 2017 game. O’Bryan took an unusual route to becoming the starting quarterback for the Pioneers and has produced some memorable moments as they prepare for NWC 1A play. Evan Abell eabell@bhamherald.com

“I’d like to play football in college, if I can find a good fit for my academic goals and athletics, but I’ll have to switch to wide receiver,” said O‘Bryan, whose 40-yard speed is a respectable 4.7 seconds. He said he is well aware that is what many good athletes do to earn playing time.

Nooksack is young — “We have three or four returning starters on both sides,” O’Bryan said — so his capable leadership is vital, especially since returning senior standout Baylor Galley is out for the season with a foot injury.

O’Bryan recalls gaining his teammates’ confidence against Sehome in a 28-21 win in the season opener not long after Galley was injured.

“I was a little nervous starting at quarterback for the first time,” O’Bryan said. “I threw a pick on our first series. But the guys could see I was going to be OK.”

His response to the interception? He produced all four touchdowns against the Mariners, throwing for two scores and running for a pair.

He followed up last Friday with three touchdown passes in a 50-6 win at Granite Falls, including two in the first quarter to Evan Neitling. O’Bryan was limited to seven passes on a night of heavy rain but completed five for 93 yards.

“Baylor (last year’s top receiver) is helping me a lot,” O’Bryan said of Galley’s unofficial coaching role. “And Cooper Clawson (who calls defensive signals as the returning inside linebacker) has been great at helping me adjust.”

Myhre says poise is a big part of O’Bryan’s game.

“He showed great poise in our spring workouts,” Myhre said. “Austin is doing a great job at quarterback. He’s also playing very well on defense. We moved him to one of our two inside linebacker spots to fit our personnel.”

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WEEK 3 SCHEDULE

Friday

Cascade at Mount Baker, 7 p.m.

Nooksack Valley at King’s, 7 p.m.

Mission (B.C.) at Meridian, 7 p.m.

Lynden Christian at Blaine, 7 p.m.

Sehome at Centralia, 7 p.m.

Lord Tweedsmuir at Lynden, 7 p.m.

Squalicum at Marysville-Pilchuck (at Quil Ceda Stadium), 7 p.m.

Marysville-Getchell at Ferndale 7 p.m.

Saturday

Lummi at Seattle Lutheran, (at West Seattle Stadium) 1 p.m.

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