MISSOULA — The secret that Polson football coach Kaden Glinsmann tried to hide all summer is well out there now: The Pirates have their quarterback of the future.
FRANK GOGOLA Missoulian
Sophomore Jarrett Wilson has used his cannon of a left arm to rank ninth in the country in passing yards per game while guiding Polson to a 3-1 record and three consecutive wins with an offense that returned just two starters from last year’s 4-5 team.
Wilson’s strong start goes back to his freshman year, when he experienced the varsity level while thrust into starting at cornerback because of an injury to Trevor Schultz. That’s helped him adapt to the speed of the game and come up clutch on two final drives with a strip fumble and recovery against Whitefish and an interception Browning to seal a set of wins.
When the coronavirus led to the cancellation of track, Wilson turned his attention to getting in early prep to play quarterback. He brought teammates out for throwing sessions, showing the maturity and leadership of a coach’s son; his father, Scott Wilson, formerly coached the Pirates.
In the summer, Wilson showed his abilities to deliver the ball to players when Polson made trips to Glacier for skeleton passing work. He started to bring back visions of a winning team and an offense led by his brother Tanner Wilson, who was a backup quarterback at Montana in the Big Sky Conference, where Glinsmann thinks Wilson may get a look at quarterback or safety.
“We had a pretty good suspicion with our summer program that he’d be really good for us,” Glinsmann said of his 5-foot-10, 175-pound signal caller ahead of the Pirates’ matchup at 3-1 Libby at 7 p.m. Friday. “We just didn’t how special he’d be. He has a long way to go, but we’re excited about where he’s at and what he can be.”
Wilson is averaging 393 yards of offense per game, including 352.3 through the air, an impressive amount even though some states aren’t playing football and could’ve had players push him down the leaderboard. He’s completed 62.6% of his passes (112/179) for 1,409 yards with 13 touchdowns and four interceptions. They’ve passed the ball 73.1% of the time, but when they’ve run, Wilson has 37 of those 66 carries and has rushed for a team-best 155 yards and two touchdowns.
He’s coming off a game in which he had 559 yards of offense, the second most in Class A history, throwing for 439 and running for 120 to become the fifth Class A player to go over 300 passing and 100 rushing in the same game, according to Class A statistician Brian A. Reed.
That came after Wilson threw for a school-record 444 yards in the opener, making him the fourth Class A player with multiple 400-yard passing games in an entire career, and he’s played just four games.
“We try to do a very good job of protecting where he’s looking with his eyes and misdirection to where you can’t just key on where he’s looking with his eyes,” said Glinsmann, a former Carroll College defensive backs coach now in his second season at Polson. “There’s time where it looks like he’s looking one and goes another way. That’s by design. We’re looking to keep him in the pocket and give him quick throws but other times we want him to get out of the pocket.”
Wilson has done that while operating behind a makeshift offensive line that has two returning starters in addition to a freshman at tackle, a junior at guard and a wide receiver-turned-guard.
Polson’s approach to its uptempo offense has been throwing to space with the belief defenses don’t have enough players to completely blanket the field and some spot should be open. Right now, they’re telling Wilson about what to do, but Glinsmann believes it won’t be long before he brings his own ideas to the coaches.
Wilson’s top target has been junior wide receiver Colton Graham, a basketball player who didn’t come out for football until one game into last season and is more than halfway to 1,000 yards this season in just three games. He has 27 receptions for 511 yards and four scores, going for 246 yards against Ronan and 251 against Columbia Falls.
Graham sat out against Browning because of injury and was bracketed by two defenders against Whitefish, limiting him to three catches for 14 yards. So Wilson shifted away from his go-to guy against Whitefish, throwing for 163 yards and two scores to Jony Perez, one of five receivers with 148 or more receiving yards this year.
“We have young guys on the offensive line, and the one thing I knew I could teach them right away is pass protection and allowing Jarrett to be successful around it,” Glinsmann said. “We don’t have dudes who live in the weight room, but what we do have is great basketball players, baseball players and athletes who want the ball in space and don’t shrink in the moment. That’s been a product of Jarrett’s statistics is he knows those kids and believes in those kids.”
Polson hasn’t lost since blowing a 14-point lead in the season opener at Columbia Falls, one of five conferences teams at 3-1, along with Polson, Libby, Dillon and Frenchtown. Whitefish is 2-2, while Hamilton is 4-0 to lead the league, which will send four teams to the playoffs instead of six because of a reduced bracket due to the pandemic.
The Pirates’ road test at Libby could go a long way in determining whether they make the playoffs. It’ll be two different styles of football as Polson will look to pass and score quickly while Libby will try to shorten the game and run the clock with their ground game.
“We view this as a playoff game,” Glinsmann said. “This is a huge one for us. It’s a big test. I think more than anything, this upcoming game is why we all love football so much. There’s different ways to play football, and you’re going to see a clash of styles.”