Noah Falconer hopes a re-tooled offensive line and a running back with star potential will make his life easier as Valley Huskers quarterback. ERIC J. WELSH/ THE PROGRESS

Valley Huskers pin hopes on third-year quarterback

Chilliwack’s B.C. Football Conference junior football team looks to Abbotsford native for leadership.

With apologies to the hockey goaltender, there may be no more important position in sports than quarterback.

Without a good one, your football team is sunk. Having a good one gives even the shakiest of teams a puncher’s chance, and that’s why there’s hope in Huskerville.

Hope’s name is Noah Falconer.

The W.J. Mouat grad returns as one of the top pivots in the B.C. Football Conference, looking to build off a breakout campaign in 2016.

Falconer threw more passes (373 to 315), completed more passes (178 to 148) and rolled up more yardage (2,500 to 1,677).

“Going into my first year (2015) I was nervous and young and didn’t know what to expect, but coming into last year I had a better grip on the league and the competition I’d face,” the Abbotsford native said. “The coaching staff really helped build confidence in myself that just grew throughout the year.”

Most importantly, he got on the right side of the touchdown-to-interception ratio.

After chucking eight TDs against 10 picks as a rookie, Falconer threw 19 touchdowns versus 16 interceptions last year.

“I got rid of the ball quicker and I made quicker reads,” he said. “But I still threw too many interceptions last year, which bugs me because I feel I’m better than the ratio I had.”

Falconer did what he did with things falling down around him, and could be excused for not seeing a ball-hawking defender or throwing up the odd jump-ball.

Falconer got no help at all from a ground game that averaged 44.6 yards per match and a leaky offensive line got him sacked 10 times and hurried/hit on just about every dropback.

“It made our offence one-dimensional and the defence was able to pin its ears back and come after me without worrying about containing a running back,” the QB noted. “But I’ve never had an amazing offensive line at any level I’ve played at, so I’m used to getting hit.

“It’s just part of football.”

Keenan Vicklund may remedy one of those problems. The shifty running back out of Robert Bateman could give the Huskers their first true feature back since Matt Peterson rolled up 1,129 rushing yards in 2009.

“He is quick, and I don’t think I’ve seen a kid who can stop on a dime as well as he can,” Falconer said. “He is patient too and I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do in a game.”

Even the best tailbacks find it hard to gain yards if there are no holes to run through, but again Falconer is optimistic.

“This may be the best offensive line I’ve played with in my three years here and I think we can really go some good,” he said.

New head coach Bob Reist agrees the pieces are in place for an improved ground game. But when the previous bar was set at ‘non-existent,’ there’s only one way to go.

“Our goal is to have a running game for sure, and a pretty decent one at that,” Reist said. “I think our O-line is better than last year and we are very happy with Keenan.

“We’ll see once we get going against live competition, but we’re very confident we’ll be able to move the ball on the ground.”

As a defensive-minded coach, Reist knows how difficult it is to deal with an offence than can chew up five-plus yards a pop on the ground.

He also knows how easy it is to game plan against a team that doesn’t have that threat.

“If a defence doesn’t respect your run game it makes your play action almost irrelevant and your RPOs (run-pass options) are a lot harder to do,” he explained. “I think it helps Noah out, complements him and opens stuff up for him down the field.”

One of the first things Reist did when he was hired by the Huskers is watch tape of Falconer.

“I see a very calm-demeanoured kid who never seems to get rattled,” Reist said. “He was under a lot of pressure last year and threw some picks, some big ones at times.

“But he always came right back and never looked like a kid who got shook by that.

He’s out there at training camp delivering the rock to a whole new receiving corps and he looks good.”

Falconer knows expectations for his team are lower than low, and will remain so until the Huskers show signs of life, but he believes his crew has the talent and focus to turn heads this season.

It all starts Saturday night in Kamloops.

“We’re eager to test ourselves against other teams and see how we match up.”