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Southpaws put different spin on QB spot

Hernando County has not one but two left-handers starting.

By FRANK PASTOR
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 22, 2002


It took Joe Brazeau days, sometimes weeks, to find baseball gloves. Stores often sold out of the few they carried, and he had to order from catalogs.

School desks prevent Ian Wald from writing neatly. Ink smudges his hand as he moves it across the page.

It's not easy being left-handed in a right-hander's world.

But Brazeau and Wald are not only southpaws, they are quarterbacks. Starters, at that.

It's unusual to find a left-handed signal-caller at any school, let alone two in the same county.

Central's Brazeau and Springstead's Wald are putting a different spin on more than the ball as they turn playbooks -- and preconceptions -- on their heads.

"I don't think we've had a left-handed quarterback that I can remember, but I'm sure there has been in the county before," said Hernando coach Bill Browning, who has coached in the county for 16 years."

Because most quarterbacks are right-handed, coaches have a natural tendency to draw up and call plays to the right. They try to leave room so their quarterbacks have more freedom to maneuver.

Left-handers take snaps differently, and the ball spins out of their hands in the opposite direction, posing potential problems for centers and receivers.

But, with the exception of a few dropped balls in practice, Springstead and Central seem to be adjusting well.

Brazeau throws so many passes to his receivers in practice they have grown accustomed to the way the ball leaves his hand.

Snaps have been, well, a snap. Unlike most lefties, who take the ball with their left hand on top, Brazeau puts his underneath, making things easier for centers Jason Santiago and Mike Gurske.

Wald takes snaps like most left-handers, but center Joe Vitale adapted without any problems. If there has been an area of concern, it has been with the receivers.

"We're having some dropped-ball problems in practice, and I don't know if that's part of it," Smith said.

Central coach John Wilkinson said he worries about Brazeau's arm only on sprintout plays. Wilkinson prefers to roll Brazeau to the left, but there are times when the ball is on the left hash and he has to roll right.

Nothing is more difficult for a left-hander.

"I'd have to turn my body a whole different way just to get my hips around to throw the ball," Brazeau said. There are advantages to having a left-handed quarterback. The biggest is that defenses have to adapt.

Since most quarterbacks are right-handed, coaches tend to put their strongest cornerbacks on the right side. That leaves a weaker corner on the left or, if they switch corners, one who is unaccustomed to playing on that side.

Brazeau, a senior, and Wald, a sophomore, are relative newcomers to their position.

Brazeau was a middle school tailback who wanted a more challenging position as a freshman on the junior varsity team. Wald played safety as an eighth-grader.

In three games, Brazeau already has passed for 108 yards -- more than the Bears had all of last season -- and rushed for 89.

If they have anything in common, it's that neither feels unusual in his position.

"I don't think of myself as, "Oh, I'm the lefty, I'm a different kid,"' Brazeau said. "I just play."

"When I'm out on the field, it doesn't affect me any," Wald said.

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