Guy Mistretta hadn’t even been introduced as Livonia’s new coach before he knew Cee Jay Powell was a special player.
Before Mistretta walked into the cafeteria to meet his new team in March, Powell made it a point to walk up to the new coach and introduce himself. He was the only player to do so. Later, when Mistretta asked his team if there were any questions following his introduction, Powell was the only one to raise his hand.
So when it came time to decide who would take over quarterback duties for the Wildcats this season, there was only one name that came to Mistretta’s mind.
“He’s just one of those guys that stands out,” Mistretta said. “It goes back to personality. He’s a fun-loving kid, the other guys enjoy being around him and he just has natural leadership qualities, which is, of course, what you look for in a quarterback.”
Powell and Mistretta share a special bond as No. 1 Livonia looks to continue its undefeated run when it takes on Rayville in the quarterfinals of the Class 3A nonselect playoffs Friday.
The 2014 season brought with it new territory for the junior quarterback and his coach.
Powell had to get used to the new position after switching from wide receiver, while Mistretta navigated his way through his first season with Livonia.
Powell was nervous about the move at first, but Mistretta never saw anything but greatness in the future, despite not even knowing if Powell could throw the ball.
It was a risk, but one Powell knew he had to take if that’s what was best for the team. Livonia needed a leader, and Powell was the guy.
“I had to change the way I played,” Powell said. “Our offense is more of an up-tempo offense, so after a run play I was usually walking back down the field. But now, once the play is done, I have to look to the sideline for the next play. The hardest thing was just becoming a leader.”
Mistretta said he was expecting Powell to take a few months to get used to the position but was shocked with his rate of progression after just a few weeks.
The coach praised Powell for the plays he can make with his feet, citing him as more of a dual-threat type of quarterback, but added that he tries to keep Powell from running the ball every play.
Powell said that was one of the hardest things he had to learn. After spending the past few seasons as a wide receiver — the position he said still holds dear to his heart — his natural instinct was to run around the field.
It was an adjustment, but after outscoring opponents 418-125 through 11 games this season, Powell is starting to see why his coach put so much faith in him.
“After the first day, I didn’t think (Mistretta) was going to be as hard as he is on me,” Powell said. “But now, I’m actually thankful that he’s so hard on me because I know nobody else was going to push me as hard as he pushes me — besides maybe my mama.”