FLORENCE, S.C. — Football is always a learning process, and it’s certainly been one for Owen Taylor the past few seasons.
The now Hartsville High School junior switched positions to cornerback last year, then switched positions again at the start of this season — to quarterback.
“It’s probably been about four years since I really played quarterback,” said Taylor, who last lined up behind center back in middle school. “But I was really excited to be able to get to do what I wanted to do since I was a kid.”
Taylor has made strides through six games, and is looking to make even more as the Red Foxes (3-3, 0-1 Region 6-4A) welcome Marlboro County (1-5, 0-1) to Kelleytown on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
“He started every game at corner for us last year — a position he’s never played, so that gives you a lot of background on his ability,” HHS coach Jeff Calabrese said of Taylor. “It’s been a huge adjustment for him, and one that I think he’s handled very well. I think he’s learning the position, and that’s what you expect any first-year quarterback to do.
“But we’ve certainly seen his talent multiple times and we expect good things from him.”
Taylor’s biggest game so far came against Bluffton where he threw for five touchdowns in a 56-21 victory. He also had a solid performance against defending state champion Myrtle Beach last week — rushing for two scores and throwing for another.
“It’s just about learning to read defenses, formations and working on the little things,” Taylor said. “Running the ball is big part of what we do at Hartsville, but you’ve got to be able to throw the ball, too, and balance it out.”
And so far, the Red Foxes have been pretty balanced. Taylor has completed 59 of 103 passes for 899 yards and seven scores. He’s also rushed for 197 yards and two more scores. Hartsville has 980 yards and 10 scores on the ground total.
“It’s been a feeling-out process to kind of find those strengths and the things that he’s really comfortable with,” Calabrese said. “We’re completing about 60 percent of our passes and have over 900 yards, so that’s a big change for us. We trust him to be able to do those things and he’s continuing to learn where he needs to be with the ball.”
His time at cornerback helped him in that regard, Taylor said, as he was able to draw on that experience at quarterback.
“It was just kind of seeing the field and realizing how quarterbacks think on the defensive side of the ball and then taking that back to the other side,” he said. “It helps with reading defenses.”
It also helps to have good players around him, Taylor added. The offensive line and running back J’Shawn Anderson have helped reestablish the Hartsville ground game, and Taylor has a number of receivers he can target.
D.P. Pendergrass already has 23 catches for 370 yards and three scores with Javion Hough (236 yds., 2 TDs) and Tate Hawkins (106 yds.) not too far behind.
“They’ve been great for me,” Taylor said. “It’s just about having good relationships and making sure you get better every day — don’t make the same mistakes over and over, and try to learn from the ones you do make.”