By Lee Davis
Carson Griffis can’t believe his senior year at Homewood has finally arrived.
“We had a senior meeting yesterday,” Griffis said, when contacted just days before the Patriots’ opener against Decatur. “I think that’s when it hit me for the first time that this will be my final year to play quarterback at Homewood.”
Even with his final year ahead of him, Griffis already has built up a career full of highlights. The most notable may have come in last season’s thrilling 37-30 comeback win over Class 6A Region 5 rival Pelham. The Panthers sprinted to an early 15-0 lead before Homewood rallied. Griffis rushed for 287 yards – including an 82-yard touchdown run – and passed for 87 more yards to help spark the victory.
“That win was probably my biggest thrill since I’ve been playing,” Griffis said. “It was great to be in a position to help the team win, especially against a strong region opponent such as Pelham.”
The Patriots finished the season 9-3 following a second round playoff loss to Gardendale. That would be considered an outstanding year at many schools, but Homewood plays to a higher standard.
“We were disappointed not to win the state championship,” he said. “At Homewood, that’s our goal every year. That’s what you sign up for when you come here.”
Griffis thinks 2015 could be the Patriots’ year. Derrick Underwood – who rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season – returns as Homewood’s top running back. The defense will be anchored by senior end Griffin Gentry, who made more than 100 tackles last season.
“When a team has a great running back and a strong defense, it takes a lot of pressure off the quarterback,” Griffis said. “It helps to know that there are other guys who can get the job done. I just want to do my part.”
Griffis said the Patriots are striving for more consistency in the new season. “We developed a reputation as the ‘Comeback Kids’ because we came from behind so many times last year,” he said. “It’s great to be able to do that, but I’d like to see us get off to better starts and play a full four quarters.”
Homewood’s trademark as a team that could come back in the clutch was well deserved. The Patriots overcame large fourth quarter deficits to win four games last season. The final comeback was in a 25-21 win over Hartselle in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs. Homewood scored two touchdowns in the final 2:40 of the game. The first score was a 45-yard scoring bomb from Griffis to Maurice Mayo. The pair also connected on a two-point conversion. Griffis later connected to Mayo for a 30-yard gain that set up the winning score.
Ever the perfectionist, Griffis would also like to improve his own numbers, although by any measuring stick they are very impressive. In 2014, he completed 122 of 207 passes for 1,407 yards with 10 touchdowns and only five interceptions. His completion rate was a stellar 60 percent. On the ground, he rushed for 480 yards on 145 carries for a three yard per carry average. The 480-yard total included his 82-yard scoring sprint against Pelham.
“I started off the season with about 300 yards rushing and tailed off some after that,” Griffis said. “I’d like to improve my running game.”
Griffis also started at quarterback as a sophomore, passing for more than 1,300 yards and throwing 15 touchdowns. He also rushed for more than 400 yards and nearly a five yard per carry average.
Homewood coach Ben Berguson may be his quarterback’s biggest booster. “We have a lot of confidence in Carson,” he said. “He’s been around and helped us win a lot of games. I wouldn’t trade him for anyone.”
Berguson is the perfect fit as a coach for Homewood, according to Griffis. “He’s a great coach, who cares about his players,” he said. “Whether a player is a starter or third-stringer, Coach Berguson gets to know us all personally. We’re fortunate to have him.”
Griffis – who is also a standout in baseball – isn’t sure about his future beyond high school. “I’d like to play a sport in college, but that’s about as far as I know now,” he said. “At this point I just want to have a great senior year and concentrate on helping Homewood.”
One thing is certain. If Homewood is in need of more late night heroics in 2015, Carson Griffis will be there to help provide them.
Homewood got the season off to an impressive start beating the Decatur 28-15 last Friday.