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AZTEC – Aztec’s offense is all set for the long run with quarterback Marcquis Henry running the show.

Despite tallying just 1,644 total yards of offense and 16 combined touchdowns in 2019, the freshman demonstrated he can generate the big play on both the ground and in the air against tougher competition. He also logged victories against tougher teams.

“If I was just more of a passing quarterback, they don’t really have to pressure me as much,” Henry said.

Opposing defenses had to stack the box more often, and also account for the outer edges on the line of scrimmage.

When the Tigers needed key gains on second-and-5, third-and-4, and if he didn’t have a primary receiver to go to, Henry took it upon himself to scamper to the sides.

Even with incoming defenders closing in on him, he picked up some critical first downs.

“I wasn’t afraid to go head-on,” Henry said.

Henry also rolled out and threw some timely passes on the run.

Henry even had some giant chunk plays, like a 59-yard run darting down along the sideline against Taos back on Sept. 6, plus a 60-yard touchdown pass to Mason Rios against Bernalillo in the 4A playoff opener on Nov. 9.

Henry endured the growing pains of learning simple play communication, as well as identifying and countering various blitzes and formations.

However, he started picking up on those things soon enough.

“He’s one of the more cerebral quarterbacks we ever had. The kid understands football extremely well,” coach Matthew Steinfeldt said. “He actually can see where a hole’s going to open. He understands at a young age how to press, and then be able to cut and bounce and move off of blocks.”

Henry also improved his sense of open-field space as the year went on.

“I just took the opportunity when I saw it,” Henry said.

In order to be even more effective on the ground, Henry said he wants to use the stiff arm on bigger defenders more often. Henry also said he wants to improve his first-step acceleration so he can do more damage running through the middle gaps.

Despite the season ending in blowout fashion on Saturday, Steinfeldt woke up the next morning encouraged by what’s still to come over the next few years.

He’s not only encouraged about the quarterback position, but also in establishing a greater run-pass balance on the scoring end.

“Barring any form of competition, someone beating him out, we’re set at quarterback for a very long time,” Steinfeldt said. “The nice thing Marcquis brings is a balance. He is a true dual-threat quarterback.”

Matt Hollinshead covers sports for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577 and on Twitter at @MattH_717.

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