Dre Terrell invites the challenge and craves the burden.
He's the senior quarterback for Pleasant Grove High School who also excels as a cornerback, and what he lacks in broad shoulders and major recruit height, he makes up for in quickness, instincts and incomparable leadership skills.
In an evenly matched contest between run-heavy teams Friday night in Placer County, it was Terrell's big-play ability, burst and passing touch that were the differences in a much-anticipated season opener.
Terrell passed for 171 yards and ran for 92 and accounted for all four touchdowns as the No. 5 Eagles of Elk Grove downed host No. 6 Rocklin 28-14 in a meeting of Sac-Joaquin Section championship hopefuls.
The 5-foot-7, 175-pound Terrell opened with a 60-yard touchdown sprint, passed to Esley Simmons for a 54-yard touchdown, and then dove in from 2 yards for a score.
For good measure, Terrell capped his night with a 24-yard scoring pass to Wyatt Demps.
And he earned the praise of Thunder defensive coordinator Jason Adams, who raved about Terrell before the game and then sought him out to shake his hand afterward. A year ago in an opener, Terrell was the difference with two touchdown passes to Demps in a thriller.
The teams will extend a two-year contract, and fortunately for the Thunder, Terrell will have graduated before the teams meet again.
"Terrell has the utmost respect from our players and coaches," Adams said. "He's obviously a great athlete, has good awareness in the pocket and is deadly outside the pocket. He's as tough a matchup as we'll see this year."
Terrell said he wants more for his program after losing to Burbank in the second round of the Division I playoffs last season. The teams meet next week.
"I like my role here," Terrell said, thanking his revamped offensive line and the hard running of Ian Broom (72 rushing yards). "I'm trying to do anything I can to help our team win."
It was a successful debut for a new coach in the Pleasant Grove mix.
Offensive coordinator Butch Cattolico was a 200-plus game winner at Los Gatos High. He retired last spring from teaching and coaching only to re-emerge at Pleasant Grove to assist his son, Joe Cattolico, who founded the Eagles' program.
When Joe Cattolico announced he was stepping down as coach following last season, fatigued from the grind, Terrell took it especially hard. He broke down and wept. Cattolico returned when his father joined him.
The elder Cattolico kept the game plan simple. He and his son prefer to run the ball, with the occasional pass. Terrell, of course, makes that look simple.
"We were in shock when we lost Coach Cat, very emotional, because we look up to him," Terrell said. "Now we're excited. It's fun with him and his dad. His dad brings great energy."
Rocklin showed it will be a factor in the Sierra Foothill League yet again with a power running game and a fine passer in Logan Webb, who hit Gage Sorenson with a 3-yard touchdown pass to close out the scoring. Riley Clark scored on a 1-yard dive early for Rocklin to tie the score 7-7 in the second quarter.
Rocklin, however, was undone by four turnovers. Simmons had an interception and Terrell recovered a fumble.
Joe Davidson and Mike Finnerty break down high school football from 9-10 a.m. on ESPN1320 each Saturday (linked later to ESPN1320.net).