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Related Articles
2018 Leesburg Yellow Jackets Football Archives
AJ Graham avoids two Hurricane defenders in a Kickoff Classic against Inverness Citrus, Friday,
August 24, 2018. (Photo courtesy Ashley Beyer, Freelance Photographer)
Carver Heights Quarterback Club, Leesburg High School, Leesburg, Florida
Leesburg Yellow Jackets vs. Inverness Citrus Hurricanes, High School Football
Game

Graham shows his potential as Leesburg's new QB

By Frank Jolley
Daily Commercial
Friday, August 17, 2018
Updated: Sunday, August 26, 2018, 8:17 p.m.

A.J. Graham is well versed in LAW.

Life after Wyatt.

The Leesburg High School quarterback got his first taste of leading the Yellow Jackets in 2016 when
starting quarterback Wyatt Rector suffered a season-ending knee injury in the third game of the
season. Graham filled the void for the rest of the season and showed marked improvement over the
course of the campaign.

Graham spent most of last season as one of Rector’s receivers and caught 43 passes for 789 yards.

But this season, with Rector graduated, Graham is back under center and looking to prove he’s
capable of taking the reins of the Yellow Jackets’ offense. The senior southpaw’s first test came Friday
in Leesburg’s Kickoff Classic against Inverness Citrus.

And, in spite of the final outcome — a 15-14 win for the Hurricanes — Graham passed the test.

Graham hit 6 of 19 passes for 153 yards and two touchdowns, including a 94-yarder to Jatavian
Solomon just before halftime, but was victimized by several drops by his receiving corps. He also
managed to keep a couple of drives alive with elusive running and quickness.

However, Graham is the first to admit he is a work in progress and with South Sumter looming in next
week’s season opener, he’s ready to get back on the practice field.
Scenes from Leesburg High School’s Kickoff Classic

“I need to learn to see the field better,” Graham said. “I made some dumb passes and I ran a few times
when I should’ve passed. Overall, I probably played decent, but I’m not happy that I couldn’t lead us
down the field and into the end zone one more time.

“I’m going to keep working with my teammates and coaches to get better.”

Graham, in many ways, represents the anti-Rector. At 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds, he is about five
inches shorter and about 50 pounds lighter than Rector, who accounted for more than 4,000 yards of
offense last year with Leesburg.

Admittedly, Graham doesn’t possess the ability to run over defenders as Rector did. To compensate,
he scrambles with more speed and a willingness to get outside the pocket and throw on the run.

Like Graham, Yellow Jackets coach Mark Oates felt the quarterback’s performance was mostly
positive. Oates was upbeat after the game about his young signal-caller.

“I thought he did pretty well,” Oates said. “His statistics probably should look a little better, but his
receivers didn’t always help him out by holding on to catchable passes. I have no problem with
anything A.J. did. We’ll keep grinding on and start getting ready for South Sumter.”

Oates felt heading into the game that Graham threw the mid-range pass — 10 to 15 yarders — with
more efficiency than Rector, who has a cannon for a right arm. And Graham showed that on multiple
occasions against Citrus.

In fact, both his touchdown passes — a 16-yarder to David Robinson in the corner of the end zone and
his 94-yard hookup with Solomon — were perfect examples of Graham’s ability to throw with finesse.

On both plays, he moved around in the pocket and patiently found his intended target.

They were the kind of throws coaches often expect to see from veteran quarterbacks, not those with
relatively few opportunities to direct an offense. Both were proof of Graham’s growth since his last start
in 2016 and demonstrated his potential.

“I’m going to learn from the things I did right and work on what I did wrong,” Graham said.


And, in spite of the final outcome — a 15-14 win for the Hurricanes — Graham passed the test.

Graham hit 6 of 19 passes for 153 yards and two touchdowns, including a 94-yarder to Jatavian
Solomon just before halftime, but was victimized by several drops by his receiving corps. He also
managed to keep a couple of drives alive with elusive running and quickness.

However, Graham is the first to admit he is a work in progress and with South Sumter looming in next
week’s season opener, he’s ready to get back on the practice field.



And, in spite of the final outcome — a 15-14 win for the Hurricanes — Graham passed the test.

Graham hit 6 of 19 passes for 153 yards and two touchdowns, including a 94-yarder to Jatavian
Solomon just before halftime, but was victimized by several drops by his receiving corps. He also
managed to keep a couple of drives alive with elusive running and quickness.

However, Graham is the first to admit he is a work in progress and with South Sumter looming in next
week’s season opener, he’s ready to get back on the practice field.
Scenes from Leesburg High School’s Kickoff Classic

“I need to learn to see the field better,” Graham said. “I made some dumb passes and I ran a few times
when I should’ve passed. Overall, I probably played decent, but I’m not happy that I couldn’t lead us
down the field and into the end zone one more time.

“I’m going to keep working with my teammates and coaches to get better.”

Graham, in many ways, represents the anti-Rector. At 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds, he is about five
inches shorter and about 50 pounds lighter than Rector, who accounted for more than 4,000 yards of
offense last year with Leesburg.

Admittedly, Graham doesn’t possess the ability to run over defenders as Rector did. To compensate,
he scrambles with more speed and a willingness to get outside the pocket and throw on the run.

Like Graham, Yellow Jackets coach Mark Oates felt the quarterback’s performance was mostly
positive. Oates was upbeat after the game about his young signal-caller.

“I thought he did pretty well,” Oates said. “His statistics probably should look a little better, but his
receivers didn’t always help him out by holding on to catchable passes. I have no problem with
anything A.J. did. We’ll keep grinding on and start getting ready for South Sumter.”

Oates felt heading into the game that Graham threw the mid-range pass — 10 to 15 yarders — with
more efficiency than Rector, who has a cannon for a right arm. And Graham showed that on multiple
occasions against Citrus.

In fact, both his touchdown passes — a 16-yarder to David Robinson in the corner of the end zone and
his 94-yard hookup with Solomon — were perfect examples of Graham’s ability to throw with finesse.

On both plays, he moved around in the pocket and patiently found his intended target.

They were the kind of throws coaches often expect to see from veteran quarterbacks, not those with
relatively few opportunities to direct an offense. Both were proof of Graham’s growth since his last start
in 2016 and demonstrated his potential.

“I’m going to learn from the things I did right and work on what I did wrong,” Graham said.



This article was provided by Gerald Lacey
Gerald Lacey is the senior sports writer covering Leesburg High School Sports for the Carver Heights
Quarterback Club™. You can reach him at:
geraldlacey@leesburgyellowjacketsfootball.com
2018 Leesburg Yellow Jackets Football Archives, AJ Graham avoids two Hurricane defenders in a Kickoff Classic against Inverness Citrus, Friday, August 24, 2018. (Photo courtesy Ashley Beyer, Freelance Photographer), Carver Heights Quarterback Club, Leesburg High School, Leesburg, Florida