Lake Norman & Mooresville

Mustangs junior up to opportunity at quarterback

East Lincoln's Garrett Young is used to the pressure that comes with being a quarterback.

Young, 16, has been the starter on various teams since he was 6 years old.

So it was no surprise when he became the Mustangs' starter as a freshman, leading the team to an 8-1 record.

Last season, Young followed that up by competing with childhood friend Patrick Rendleman for the starting varsity quarterback spot. East Lincoln coaches decided both Rendleman and Young would share the position, starting 2010 with a two-quarterback system that rarely works for both players.

That produced mixed results, as both Young and Rendleman were in and out of the lineup for a Mustang team that finished 8-4 and lost in the first round of the playoffs.

Young started the last four games of the season, including the Mustangs' 33-19 playoff loss to Mountain Heritage, in which he passed for more than 243 yards and two touchdowns - giving him a lot to work on but also a lot of confidence going into the offseason.

"Last year, I wasn't quite ready to be a starting quarterback," said Young, who worked hard all summer by going to camps at Appalachian State and Furman. "This year, everything is different, everything has slowed down, and I feel like I'm a whole new player."

His father, Ron Young, said he thinks last year's experience should help Garrett this season. "It was tough on him, but I think that and the competition with Patrick made him a better player," Ron Young said.

After Rendleman decided to transfer to Lincolnton, he opened the door for Young to start. But Young admits it was bittersweet.

"Patrick and I are really good friends, so I wish him the best," he said. "But I realize it's my time at East Lincoln to shine."

Heading into Friday's game against Bandys, Young had led the Mustangs to impressive wins against Newton-Conover and Hopewell.

Young went 13-for-14 for 164 yards and three touchdown passes in the season-opener against the Red Devils. He followed that with another 192 yards and three more touchdown passes against the Titans.

Young's performance has surprised even his coach, Mike Byus.

"I don't want to downgrade my team because I really like this team," said the Mustangs coach, "but I had no idea we would start 2-0. I didn't know what to expect. Of course, Garrett and Marcus (McDowell) have been a big part of that."

Having McDowell alongside makes Young's job easier. McDowell, who rushed for more than 1,300 yards as a junior, already has 365 yards and five rushing touchdowns and another 152 yards and three scores in the air.

The early-season success has given the Mustangs a new identity, with a lot more confidence than they had just a couple weeks ago.

"This team has come together really fast, and we all trust each other to do our part, our job," said Young. "I just try to get the ball to my playmakers and let them make plays."

The motivation to be on top of the Southern Piedmont Conference, which usually means going through archrival Lincolnton, is also in the back of the Mustangs' minds. The Wolves are heavily favored to repeat as champions.

"We definitely play with a chip on our shoulders because we aren't considered the 'big' team right now," Young said. "But we just need to stay focused and keep working hard every week."

Young said he hopes to make the most of his opportunities now and in the future, as he dreams one day of playing college football.

The junior will continue to do so with a quiet confidence that doesn't often show on the field through emotion or celebration. Instead, Young lets his actions speak.

"I'm not a big vocal player, I don't show any of that on the field," he said. "But I want to win just as bad. This is a great opportunity for me and I want to show everyone that I can do it."