Coming into this season, Colby Williford felt more comfortable as a quarterback.
"I'm not rushing myself," said the Northwest Cabarrus senior. "I just relax, trust my linemen and wait for openings to come up instead of forcing it into traffic and get in trouble."
Williford explained that a lot of that has to do with him growing up, on and off the field.
"I'm a lot smarter than I was last year," he said. "I'm more used to how the game works, I can read defenses better. I'm becoming more familiar with just how everything goes."
Williford also put in the work in the offseason after struggling to adjust last season as a first-year varsity starter for the Trojans. He said he hit the weight room, threw with his receivers and ran with his running backs several times a week to get ready this year. That extra work with his teammates is paying off in practice and on Friday nights.
"We've got more of a connection," said Williford.
Northwest Cabarrus coach Rich Williams said Williford has done a good job of running the team's offense.
"His leadership abilities and play-making abilities are important to us," said Williams.
Williford, a team captain, said he's always looking to get his team pumped up, knowing that to get better he and his teammates can't just go through the motions.
"If a team is motivated, they're going to play 10 times better than if they're down or upset," said Williford.
Williford isn't a drop-back quarterback, instead looking to get outside the pocket and make things happen with his feet.
Being a smaller quarterback, standing at 6 feet tall, he said, he can't always see over his blockers and needs to get out of the way to see the whole field.
Being fast enough to scramble with the ball also helps his style of play.
Williams said he uses Williford's abilities to the team's advantage.
"We try to put him in situations where he can be the most successful with what his strengths are," said Williams. That's why the Trojans' coaching staff gives the quarterback an option to run the football on passing plays, he said.
Although Northwest doesn't throw the football as much as other teams, Williford has shown that he's more accurate this season. Heading into Oct. 14's game against Central Cabarrus, he had thrown only two interceptions on the year.
Williams said he's been impressed with Williford's competitive nature.
"He wants our team to do well, first and foremost," said Williams. "The only stat he cares about is winning."
Williford has had a lot of help from the running backs - seniors John Edmond, an all-conference selection last year, and Jalen Caldwell - this season.
Having two strong backs who can move the ball has opened up the passing game for Williford. A clear example was the team's 35-19 win over Mount Pleasant last month. Williford had one of the most accurate nights of his career, completing 10 of 11 passes for more than 120 yards and a touchdown as Edmond and Caldwell rushed for more than 375 combined yards.
The Trojans, who were third in the South Piedmont Conference standings before facing the Central on Friday, have played well this year despite having relatively few players on its roster. Williams said he's proud of how his team has handled that.
"Guys have stepped up and played positions maybe they didn't want to," he said. "But they've accepted the role they've been given. I've had no complaints."
Williams said Weston Smith and E.J. Rhinehart also have done a good job playing on both sides of the ball.
A lot of his team's success, Williford said, can be credited to the players' familiarity with each other. The core of this year's team has been playing together for years, he said, since they were on the Northwest junior varsity team that went 8-2 two years ago.
"We all know how to play together. We all know what we're doing," said Williford. "We just have to keep pushing ourselves."
Williford and the Trojans hope their best football is yet to come, as they head into the final two weeks of the regular season and playoffs. They face conference favorite A.L. Brown Friday.
Williford knows he'll be largely responsible for how his team performs, having to play well and keep his team motivated the rest of the way.
"I enjoy having pressure on my shoulders," said Williford.