Legacy quarterback Jalen Catalon (5) on a keeper as Mansfield Legacy played Crowley earlier this month. Bob Booth Special to the Star-Telegram
Legacy quarterback Jalen Catalon (5) on a keeper as Mansfield Legacy played Crowley earlier this month. Bob Booth Special to the Star-Telegram

High School Football

His first snap as a varsity quarterback: ‘I got chills a little bit’

By Shawn Smajstrla

ssmajstrla@star-telegram.com

September 21, 2017 04:15 PM

Dating back to last December, when Mansfield Legacy’s 2016 season ended, it was bandied about that Broncos’ standout safety Jalen Catalon could see time at quarterback this season. That finally happened recently at Crowley, and the results probably won’t surprise anyone.

Catalon played quarterback as a freshman, so it’s not that he’s new to the position. But following a breakout year defensively as a sophomore — when he was named the AP Class 5A Defensive Player of the Year — it seemed illogical to remove him from that side of the ball.

Through the offseason, Legacy coach Chris Melson and his staff worked on schemes and packages to ensure Catalon could contribute offensively this year while still playing a vital role on defense.

“He’s one of our best players, so he’s going to play as much as we can get him to play,” Melson said. “You try to get your difference makers on the field as much as possible.”

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After starting the game at his normal safety position against Crowley, Catalon was inserted under center in the second quarter.

I’m a defensive player at heart, but everybody loves to score.

Jalen Catalon

“I got chills a little bit, but at the same time I was ready,” Catalon said. “It was basically my first time to play quarterback on the varsity level, so it was kind of new and I had to adjust to it, but once I got the feel of it, everything else became normal and everything came natural. It felt a little weird, but it felt good.”

Catalon responded to the situation by completing four of five passes for 62 yards. He ended the night with 41 yards rushing on nine attempts. He scored on one of those rushes, a 23-yard touchdown in which he lined up as a receiver before getting the ball on a sweep.

Oh, and for good measure, he had an interception on defense in the first half.

And you're wondering why Jalen Catalon is a top-flight recruit? https://t.co/GDYskcPWM1 #Boomer #ZeroU

— Kevin Casas (@TheKevinCasas) September 16, 2017

“Coach told me before the game I might get my number called for a couple of drives, but I didn’t expect it to be longer than that,” Catalon said. “I thought it would be a couple of plays designed for me and then I’d be on defense most of the time. It was definitely a new look.”

“It’s a situational thing,” Melson said. “If we feel like we need a spark or feel like we want the defense to see something different because he’s a different threat than Cam [Clark], you can put him in there in certain situations. We felt like it was a good time to do it, and he did a great job.”

Melson said Catalon will likely see snaps at quarterback in every game going forward. That will give state-ranked Aledo something new to think about before their anticipated matchup Sept. 15 in Aledo.

But will using Catalon increasingly on offense impact the defense? Melson said he’s confident in other players who can fill that safety role, including starting receiver Nathan Rooney, who did so against Crowley.

Catalon admits it’s weird standing on the sideline watching the defense.

“It was a new feeling because usually I’m always out there on defense,” he said. “You have to accept your role on the team if you’ve got to do both. Right now I’m just accepting my role as playing both offense and defense and knowing I might not be on defense every single play.”

No matter how many plays Catalon gets on offense, he still considers himself a defensive player and calls himself a safety – who sometimes plays quarterback.

“I’m a defensive player at heart, but everybody loves to score. So when I did score [against Crowley], it was a nice feeling to know I put the team in a good position. I’m defensive at heart, but whatever I can do to help the team win.”