The connection between a quarterback and a wide receiver can be hard to explain. Some happen naturally. Most are cultivated by hours of hard work.

Both scenarios factor in for Zachary’s Eli Holstein and Charles Robertson. The result has been big plays for the top-seeded Broncos (12-0), who host No. 9 West Monroe (9-3) in a Class 5A quarterfinal at 7 p.m. Friday.

“I knew Charles from when we played JV together,” Holstein said. “He was one of the receivers last year. This has been a different year for both of us.”

Holstein, a Texas A&M commitment, admits he is more comfortable in his second year as the Broncos’ starter. Instead of running an offense, the junior believes it is his offense now.

The analogy is similar to that of a race car driver learning the curves and nuances of a track. A year ago, Holstein leaned on LSU’s Chris Hilton Jr. and another senior, Kenson Tate, as lead receivers.

With Holstein at the wheel this fall, Robertson often serves as the ignition for offense, along with Kameron Senegal.

Case in point, the Broncos trailed No. 17 East Ascension last week 14-0. Holstein turned to Robertson, who took a short pass and turned it into a touchdown that jumped-started the offense that led to a 24-21 road win. Robertson and Senegal combined for 207 yards receiving Friday.

“It started back in the summer, “ Zachary offensive coordinator Kenny Langlois said. “We would practice once a week, and Eli would text me to find out what routes we would be working on.”

Holstein took those and went to work during and after practices with his receivers.

“We put in a lot of work together over the summer,” Holstein said. “And it wasn’t just the two of us. All the receivers were out there. We developed a good feel … chemistry.”

Holstein passed for 1,954 yards and 22 touchdowns in the regular season without throwing an interception. Robertson led the receivers with 39 catches for 783 yards and 10 TDs. Senegal was 34 catches for 525 yards with five TDs.

It takes time for some pitch-and-catch duos to develop chemistry. Holstein and Robertson found their sweet spot in Week 2 when the Broncos rallied to beat St. Augustine 45-35.

“We got together and worked and worked all summer,” Robertson said. “The more we worked, the more confident I got in myself. The St. Aug game made it click.

“It was nice chemistry. He (Holstein) knew where to put the ball, and I knew where to go to get it.”

Though both players say added confidence boosted their play this fall, Robertson said improved technique is a factor, too.

“I worked real hard on my route running,” Robertson said. “My routes were crisp before. Now I think they are more precise.”

Factor in the dynamic of 1,000-yard rusher T.J. Wisham and the Broncos have all the elements for offensive success.

Langlois said trust also is part of the connection Holstein and Robertson share.

“We have several guys who can catch the ball and make plays,” Langlois said. “Trust factors into it this way — if we need 8 yards, Eli is comfortable throwing a 4- or 5-yard pass to Charles because he believes he will pick up the other yards.”

The chance to play West Monroe, a team the Broncos scrimmaged in August, excites both players. The last time the teams met in the playoffs, the Broncos won 27-24 in the 2018 title game. They split semifinals played at West Monroe in 2016 and 2017.

“When we scrimmaged them in August we saw their intensity,” Holstein said. “I can’t imagine anything better than a home game like this.”


Email Robin Fambrough at rfambrough@theadvocate.com