Football: Airing it out – Essig’s arm showcased in new offense

By Reece Waddell | Published Wednesday, September 5, 2018
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Leading the Pack

LEADING THE PACK – Paradise junior quarterback Jace Essig is expected to see an increased role in the offense this season, including throwing the ball more. Essig attempted just 75 passes last season. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

For the past two seasons, Jace Essig has not thrown the ball much.

The junior attempted just 75 passes last year in former head coach Ronnie Gage’s triple-option, run-based offense. But when Gage retired in May, and offensive coordinator Joe Koch was promoted to head coach, Paradise altered its offensive identity.

With an experienced starter at quarterback, Koch was eager to expand Essig’s role and let him air it out.

“Jace has worked hard,” Koch said. “This offense is kind of tailor-made for Jacob Robinson and Jace.”

Entering his third year as Paradise’s starter, Essig is looking forward to the opportunity to showcase his arm.

He said a point of emphasis throughout the offseason were his mechanics and going through his reads. Essig completed 48 percent of the limited passes he made last year but is confident his work is starting to pay off.

“My throwing mechanics were actually terrible last year,” Essig said. “[This year], it’s a lot easier. It tells us what we have on our bands. It’s no-huddle, so it spits it out, and we’re just going.

“It’s usually just triangle reads all over the place – one, two and three. You just have to trust it.”

Paradise averaged 21.5 points last season – a slight dip in production from Koch’s first year as offensive coordinator in 2016. The Panthers averaged 22.1 points two seasons ago.

Koch, who spent three decades in Wisconsin, came to Paradise when Gage was hired in 2016 because he was familiar with his scheme.

“We’re both option-based guys, and over the years, I have kind of veered one way from Coach Gage,” Koch said. “My style is a little more wide-open, a little more spread. We’re still going to have a physicality to us, but defenses will not be able to load the box.”

Essig was involved heavily in Paradise’s run game last season, and Koch said that will still be the case this year. Essig ran for 259 yards and four touchdowns in 2017.

“He’ll still be someone defenses have to account for,” Koch said.

One of Essig’s top targets on the outside will be 6-5 tight end Mitchell Sellers. The junior was an all-district selection last year and led Paradise in receiving.

He hauled in 15 of Essig’s 36 completed passes for 218 yards and a touchdown.

“It’s amazing to have a great guy like him,” Essig said. “He catches almost everything I throw up there. He’s going against 5-5 guys, and he’s 6-5. He’s so much taller and is [a mismatch].”

In Paradise’s 21-7 win over S&S Consolidated last Friday, Essig ran for two touchdowns and went 4-of-10 for 54 yards.

With a new-look offense and experience under his belt, Essig is anxious for what could be a career-best season for him and the rest of the Panthers.

“We’re going to put a lot more points on the board,” Essig said. “Spreading out the offense will help our passing and running game, too. I’m ecstatic. I cannot wait.”

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