Perhaps the first giveaway Vermilion Catholic went a nontraditional route in selecting Hunter Frith as its starting quarterback would be his No. 35 jersey. Maybe the next one would be his thick 5-foot-11, 215-pound frame.
Whether it was conventional or not Frith, a two-time all-district outside linebacker who continues to play that position, has proven to be the right fit for a spread offense the No. 7 Eagles (2-1) will display in Friday’s District 7-1A opener at Lafayette Christian Academy.
“I never thought I’d see myself playing quarterback, either,” Frith said. “All my friends at other schools were shocked I was playing quarterback. They were like, ‘why are you playing quarterback and not linebacker?’ I told them, ‘I have to do what I’ve got to do.’ ”
Graduation — 14 seniors in all — hit Vermilion Catholic hard after the Eagles completed a magical 14-0 run to the school’s second state championship, culminated by a 63-18 rout of St. Frederick in the Division IV title game.
Without first team all-state quarterback Brennan Gallet and his 3,000 yards worth of passing and veteran leadership, Vermilion Catholic fans speculated about the future success of the team’s high-octane offense that generated 41.4 points per game last season.
Third-year VC coach Russell Kuhns said he and his staff considered several viable options in the spring before going with Frith, whose background was solely on defense.
However, Kuhns was drawn to Frith’s acumen for the game and arm strength developed as an all-district pitcher.
“His football IQ is very good, and he can throw the ball well,” said Kuhns, who is 27-3 at VC. “That’s what made him the best candidate.
“We tried a couple of guys that did pretty good, but as far as making our team the best it could, be Hunter was definitely the top choice.”
Kuhns acknowledged his team has a somewhat different look without Gallet, who spent his entire time in the program at quarterback.
Over the course of the summer Frith, whose father Trent was a guard and linebacker for the Eagles in the mid-1980s, played catch up through film study and spending time with offensive coordinator Roch Charpentier to go over the finer points of the offense.
One area that’s helped Frith to digest the offensive system at more rapidly has been his experience at linebacker and how it’s translated to his understanding of coverages and getting into his reads and receiver progressions.
“Coach Roch has been a big help, and that’s why I’m learning,” Frith said. “The whole coaching staff and my teammates are helping me out. The main thing is to make the correct reads, and it’s been working out well for me.”
Frith has thrown for 200 yards or more in all three games, including a 277-yard performance with three touchdowns in last week’s 35-30 victory over Vermilion Parish rival Erath. He’s completed 52 percent of his passes (55 of 105) for 738 yards with five touchdowns and seven interceptions.
“At first it was really nerve-racking,” Frith said of his first start. “Brennan was a very good quarterback and did so well. I had big shoes to fill. He thinks I’m just as good as he wa,s but I just play my game and it’s working out well for me.”
The biggest variation in VC’s offense with Frith at quarterback is his dimension as a runner hasn’t been fully unleashed yet.
Not only has Frith’s time at linebacker been curtailed, because of his value to the offense, but so have designed running plays to try to limit excessive contact during nondistrict play where he’s only carried 15 times for 41 yards.
“I kind of miss playing as much linebacker as I used to,” Frith said. “It’s because defense was my thing, but I’ve got to do what I can to help our team win.”