The Gazette 2016 Football 3A-&-below Peak Performer: Tyler McFarland, Discovery Canyon

Photo - Discovery Canyon quarterback Tyler McFarland is the Peak Performer of the Year for small schools. photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette
Discovery Canyon quarterback Tyler McFarland is the Peak Performer of the Year for small schools. photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette

Discovery Canyon coach Shawn Mitchell asks a lot from his quarterbacks - run the triple option, and, if you have a moment, it would be great if you could throw the ball down the field to open up the defense.

None of that was a problem for senior quarterback Tyler McFarland, The Gazette 3A-A6 Football Peak Performer of the Year. McFarland finished the season with 14 touchdowns through the air and 11 on the ground, racking up 902 yards passing and 776 yards rushing.

Not too shabby for his first season as the Thunder's starting quarterback.

"For him to step in and take over the offense, that's risky business," Mitchell said. "But he did an outstanding job.

"He's extremely intelligent and has a high football IQ. He understands a lot, and if he doesn't know he asks. He's humble enough to realize he doesn't know everything."

McFarland was a big part of a historic season for Discovery Canyon. The Thunder finished 13-1, with its only loss coming in the state championship game against Pueblo East.

A difference that McFarland brought to the field was the ability to be a dual threat, something Discovery Canyon and its triple-option offense haven't had much of.

"If you can't throw, teams load the box," Mitchell said. "They dare us to beat them in the passing game. The ability for Tyler to throw helped to pull defenders back."

But for McFarland, who played quarterback at sub-varsity levels earlier in high school and spent his summers working to improve, it was the running game he needed to work on before this season. He spent the spring running hurdles in track to improve his speed.

"I needed to get more comfortable running," McFarland said.

He did. Mitchell said his quarterback's breakout game was a 58-14 win against Falcon, when McFarland ran for 212 yards and two touchdowns in addition to 73 passing yards and another score.

"I had to hear the stats twice," Mitchell said. "He really looked stout, he took charge."

If you ask McFarland, the credit should go to the Thunder's offensive line.

"You could stick any back behind them and they'd have success," McFarland said.

The Thunder had 23 seniors this season, and while not all of them started, they all had an impact, Mitchell said.

"They're buddies and genuinely enjoy being around each other," he said. "They are a cohesive group, probably more cohesive than any group we've ever had."

And while they didn't win a title, both McFarland and Mitchell are proud of the season the Thunder had.

"The ride was incredible," Mitchell said. "(The season) didn't end the way we wanted it to, but in retrospect I'm extremely proud of what this group accomplished."

"It was a dream of (the team) to play in (the state title game) for so long," said McFarland. "It was a great season, one of the best ever, and that was cool to be a part of."