Cole Simmons spent Monday evening at his home in Wytheville, Virginia, intently watching Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson put on a show in a win over the Los Angeles Rams.
“I like the Philadelphia Eagles,” Simmons said. “But I am a big fan of Lamar Jackson.”
Simmons has been doing his own Lamar Jackson impression this season in terms of signal-callers in the VHSL’s smallest classification.
The 6-foot-1, 170-pound senior at George Wythe High School has been the definition of a dual-threat QB in helping the Maroons (9-2) advance to face the Galax Maroon Tide (10-1) in Saturday’s Region 1C championship game.
Simmons has thrown for 2,414 yards, 20 touchdowns and just three interceptions, while completing 117 of his 186 pass attempts. That yardage total has established a single-season school record.
Meanwhile, he’s also rushed for 897 yards on 130 carries and scored seven TDs.
What makes this kid so good?
“Just his ability to make plays at any point in the game,” said George Wythe coach Brandon Harner. “His athleticism, his pocket presence, his ability to make plays out of nothing when things break down.”
Simmons has caused headaches for opposing coaches who have to think of a gameplan to stop him and then hope it works.
He completed 15-of-21 passes for 285 yards in a victory over Carroll County on Sept. 20.
“Our defensive mindset was to send different blitz packages at him for most of the night, hoping we could get the ball out of his hands,” said Cavaliers coach Casey Burcham. “Basically trying to make someone else beat us, but he is a smart enough player to get the ball to his guys in a position to be successful. He always seems to find the right guy.”
Grayson County gave up 259 passing yards and 98 rushing yards to Simmons in a 56-27 setback.
“Cole impressed with his poise and confidence,” GC coach Brett McPherson said. “What really makes him special is his 0-to-60 acceleration. He is at top speed so fast and it looks almost effortless. He glides when running.”
Rural Retreat boss Jamey Hughes saw Simmons rack up 235 passing yards and 91 rushing yards in GW’s 45-21 victory over his team last month.
“We are glad he is graduating,” Hughes said. “He’s an extremely talented athlete and makes everything he does on a football field seem like it is easy.”
Parry McCluer was the victim of five TD passes from Simmons as the Blues suffered a 63-21 loss to the Maroons in the first round of the playoffs.
“The accuracy of his passes really stood out to me, especially the long ball,” said PM coach Mark Wheeler. “He scorched us really bad a few times.”
Simmons is the maestro of an offense averaging 41.6 points per game.
Senior Ravvon Wells has rushed for 1,165 yards and scored a team-high 23 touchdowns.
Braydon “Vegas” Thompson (49 catches, 1,391 yards) and Dayson McMillian (26 catches, 424 yards) have been the top receivers.
“I think we’ve improved a lot throughout the year,” Simmons said. “I feel like everybody on the team has gotten better, we’ve came together at the right time and made it this far.”
Simmons has come far in his progression as a QB.
As a ninth-grader, he split time as a quarterback and wide receiver.
His sophomore year he was Deacon Beamer’s backup QB.
He took over as the starter in 2018 and has been making plays ever since.
“When he was younger we knew he was an athlete,” Harner said. “I saw glimpses his sophomore year and then his junior year it was his time to shine and goodness gracious. I remember after Deacon graduated saying it’s going to be a while before we get another good one like that. Man alive, we’ve been blessed.”
Simmons has spent hours perfecting his craft and honing his skills and that hard work has paid off.
“I feel like I’ve improved throwing the ball and my arm’s gotten a lot stronger,” Simmons said, “My vision has gotten way better. Last year I was tucking it and running it a lot quicker than I am now.”
George Wythe will try to get a measure of revenge on Saturday, having suffered a 45-14 loss to Galax in mid-October. Simmons will try to deliver yet another Lamar Jackson-like performance.
“It’s always a big game and a tough game when we play Galax,” Simmons said. “Hopefully, this time we can pull it out.”
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